This E-Team developed an advanced digital audio player, the Maestro Music Box. Music is entered into the box in either MP3 format or CDs and can store up to 12,000 songs. The box interacts with almost all types of portable audio devices: you can download music from your Apple i-Pod and vice-versa; you can create CDs for your car or walkman; you can control the box from anywhere in the world through any internet compatible device (PC, cell phone, PDA).
Businesses that regularly play music (bars, restaurants, retail chains) currently use a variety of devices, from playing single CDs to laptops with media players to subscribing to programming services that broadcast music to their locations. The Maestro Music Box could help these businesses catalogue and manage their music, allowing them to quickly and easily synchronize music across multiple locations.
The E-Team consisted of two MBA students and one undergraduate industrial and electrical engineering major. Advisors to the project were a professor of strategy and entrepreneurship, a software development specialist, an engineering consultant and the director of a business strategy firm.
Update: Since receiving funding the team has switched gears toward a software approach and are now in beta-testing. Visit getmaestro.com for more.
This E-Team developed an adjustable, lightweight easel called the Spider Easel. The team used user surveys and industry experience to come up with an all-encompassing design that is adjustable, versatile, sturdy, portable, and inexpensive. The Spider Easel consists of four arms and four legs constructed from aluminum tubing. The length of the individual arms and legs can be changed using adjustable compression fittings (much like a photographer's tripod). Artwork is held by gripping hardware not seen in other easels.
Bullex, launched at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, received Advanced E-Team grants in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to develop the Intelligent Training System (ITS), an innovative fire extinguisher training device. The majority of today's live-fire extinguisher training is done by taking a bucket and filling it with kerosene or diesel, and water. After an instructor lights the fire, a trainee is given an extinguisher and told to put it out. This method is expensive, can be dangerous, and often requires a HAZMAT cleanup.
ITS makes fire extinguisher training more efficient by simulating the extinguishing of a real fire, removing costly extinguishant from the equation. First, flames are generated in a clean-burning, propane-fed pan equipped with digital sensors. If users aim properly and hit the sensors, they can quell the fire without the mess. The sensors then give out a reading on how well a trainee used the extinguisher. The device is cleaner, safer, and easier to use than the traditional training method.
Bullex launched successfully in 2003, and now has 60 employees and estimated annual sales of $7.3 million. The company was featured in Fortune Small Business Magazine after making it to the final round of the magazine's national business plan competition, receiving honorable mention. Their customers include the US Navy, Northrop Grumman, Michelin, International Truck, and Trane.
This E-Team developed novel technology to generate modified root crops that produce significant quantities of vegetable oil. A cloned mutant gene named PICKLE (PKL) produces plants that accumulate large amounts of oil in their roots. The team believes radishes are promising candidates for hosting the gene because of their bigger roots, capable of storing large amounts of oil. They tested a variety of crops and established connections with the biofuels market.
Successful development of this technology would significantly expand the amount of crops that can produce commercially extractable vegetable oil. An increase in vegetable oil will be beneficial to several markets because it is a key ingredient in numerous products such as food for human consumption, biofuels, animal feed, plastics, and lubricants. The team has chosen to focus on vegetable oil to generate biofuels.
The licensing of genetically modified crops has blossomed into a multibillion dollar industry: seven million farmers in eighteen countries planted genetically modified crops in 2004.
Dairy farmers, animal processing facilities, and wastewater treatment plants use biogas generated from the anaerobic digestion of organic matter to stabilize their waste streams, facilitating processing for disposal or its conversion into usable by-products. NCIIA funding supported this E-Team in completing a technical feasibility study for a modular reactor that pressurizes and purifies biogas produced from anaerobic digestion of biomass using a closed-loop system. It was the first step toward commercialization of biogas-producing technology for use by commercial, industrial, and consumer clients who could benefit from a reliable source of clean, renewable energy.
The US water supply and wastewater treatment is a $110 billion industry, of which $32.1 billion (30%) was spent in 2002 on capital improvements at municipal wastewater treatment facilities. In the next six years, municipalities are expected to spend an additional $100 billion to meet state and federal environmental standards. The team's goal was to determine a practical system design and identify appropriate markets for commercialization, developing a thorough understanding of the economic value proposition for this technology.
MicroStereolithography (MSLA) is a novel layer-based microfabrication technology in which three-dimensional physical parts can be selectively created directly from a computer model using photopolymer resin. The Georgia Tech Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute (RPMI) recently developed an advanced MSLA machine that uses an innovative method of delivering ultraviolet light onto the desired build surface using a digital micro-mirror array device. Currently the machine is operated manually, but its speed and resolution could be improved by automation. The MSLA E-Team automated this machine and developed a business plan for a MSLA "service bureau" venture to commercialize the technology.
The MSLA E-Team targeted the growing six billion Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) industry, where two-dimensional, labor-intensive, and iterative manufacturing techniques are typical.
When firefighters enter a burning building, they must keep in physical contact with each other to stay together, which limits their mobility and, when contact is broken, results in injuries and fatalities. The TekAlert E-Team developed the Team Accountability Buddy System (TABS), which uses proximity-sensing wireless technology to allow firefighters to free their hands and conduct more efficient searches while maintaining team integrity. TABS allows firefighters to work a safe distance apart, determined by visibility. When a member of the group is outside the distance limit for thirty seconds, the audible and visual beacon system activates, guiding the group back to the missing firefighter. Each unit is interoperable and compatible with all other units.
Improving call quality and network coverage of cellular phone systems in an economically viable way is the one of the major concerns of service providers today. The quality of current wireless communication systems could be significantly improved by the use of a narrow band tunable antenna in cell phone handsets to increase network coverage, reduce the cost of materials used for manufacturing cell phones, and improve battery life. The Barium Strontium Titanate (BST) Antenna E-Team developed a low-cost method of fabricating a voltage tunable BST-based antenna.
Over the past three years, the Materials Science and Engineering Department at North Carolina State University has developed a thin film voltage controlled capacitor (varactor) using BST. The BST Antenna E-Team adapted the BST thin film technology to produce high quality integral varactors, which can be used to manufacture narrow band tunable antennas.
The BST-based antenna will help service providers increase their revenues and enable better wireless service for end-users, allowing them to differentiate their products in a highly competitive market.
Today's standard, non-custom-built wheelchairs lack the ability to adapt to the user, leading to discomfort and health problems when used in long-term care situations in nursing homes, hospitals, and assisted living facilities. With no ability to adjust, larger residents are crammed into smaller chairs, and, with no headrest on the chair back, people without muscle strength in their neck are left with their heads falling to one side. Bigger wheelchairs with headrests exist, but cost 300% more than standard wheelchairs--a prohibitive cost for most facilities. In response to this problem, this E-Team developed a wheelchair that can expand from the usual 18" wide and 16" deep seating surface to 22" wide and 18" deep, and comes with an adjustable headrest. The goal of the team was to develop a cost-efficient, adjustable manual wheelchair that addresses the common problems of people who use standard, generic wheelchairs in long-term situations.
The E-Team consisted of seven mechanical engineering majors, one with business administration experience and one with patent experience. Advisors included a professor of mechanical engineering and design as well as three members of Keen Mobility, a former NCIIA E-Team that has gone on to form a successful company based on innovative assistive technology.
This E-Team developed the Interactive Guest Paging System (IGPS), a new restaurant pager that allows the customer to play games, view the menu, and check on the estimated waiting time while waiting to be seated. The system consists of handheld pagers with video screens and buttons wirelessly connected to a base station equipped with a touch screen, mouse, keyboard, pager charging bay, software to update the menu, and a wireless transceiver.
The team, which consisted of five undergraduate electrical engineering majors and one business administration undergraduate, planned to target casual dining chains such as Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, etc.