Buzby Networks, which received a $18,000 E-Team grant in 2007, has created an indoor positioning device that may replace locked doors or alarm systems in senior care centers where residents’ freedom of movement must be balanced by the assurance they are kept safe.
The team attended NCIIA's Open Minds showcase in Dallas, TX, in 2008 (pictured) and incorporated as a company shortly after, receiving its first investment from The Technology Collaborative in Pittsburgh. Since then, the money has continued to flow in for development, culminating in the announcement on Sept. 20 it had received a $109,150 investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
WishVast: Building Trust and Social Capital using Cell-Phones
Pennsylvania State University
WishVast is a cell-phone-based business networking system that harnesses the pervasiveness of cellphones in developing countries to optimize resource utilization and facilitate people-to-people trade, with the ultimate goal of alleviating poverty. WishVast allows its users to join groups of local relevance to exchange information, meet new people based on shared interests, and build trusting relationships. Users can message a group to advertise themselves, their products or services, or get access to resources. Upon completion of a transaction over the WishVast network, users can exchange points to rate the quality of their interaction. Over time, the accrued points allow individuals to quantify their trustworthiness and leverage it with new business partners. Current applications include an ad-hoc job search system, field-tested in central Kenya, and STARTNet, a collaborative venture with North Carolina State University and the University of Pretoria that facilitates rural tourism development and marketing in South Africa.
Continuing his theme of innovation, and following on from the launch of Startup America, President Obama toured the Penn State Engineering Lab - an NCIIA grant recipient - this week to talk about clean energy and business. While there he proposed a tax credit and other ideas aimed at getting businesses to retrofit their buildings and save costs.
This reminded us that in 2005, NCIIA awarded an E-Team grant to a Penn State student team to develop an energy conservation solution for small businesses and homes to do just that. The team launched a start-up, I-Conserve, one of a dozen alternative or clean energy companies that NCIIA has helped launch.
The Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program at Penn State is a collaborative program geared towards creating a freer, fairer, friendlier, and more sustainable world. The program focuses on real-world contexts in indigenous communities around the world.
This grant helps to fill a critical gap in the HESE program by developing a course dedicated to business planning for social ventures in the US and abroad. The course covers the fundamental concepts of social entrepreneurship and employs diverse case studies and experiential learning activities to help students develop a deeper understanding of social problems and devise innovative enterprise solutions to address them.
While HESE currently exists as a certificate program, Penn State is exploring the opportunity to expand it into a minor.
This grant supports the translation of the established Engineering Entrepreneurship minor from the Main Campus to the Penn State Berks campus. In the new program, called the Internationalizing Entrepreneurship Education Program (IEEP), students from Penn State Berks and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Kenya will collaborate to create multidisciplinary, virtual E-Teams. The purpose of the student teams is to address issues of economic development locally and globally.
IEEP will build on The Children and Youth Empowerment Center, a program for former street children in Kenya that trains young people to become entrepreneurs using discarded electronics. Students will be placed in international and multidisciplinary teams, collaborating with JKUAT students to identify and develop safe and commercially viable uses for electronic waste. After setting up in Kenya, the second location for a similar green entrepreneurship initiative will be Reading, Pennsylvania where there is a large Latino population with high rates of unemployment and poverty.
Bringing basic medical care to people in developing countries, using laptops, cell phones, innovative software and simple medical devices. Sustainable Vision grantees Lauren Ellis and Aaron Fleishman from Penn State sent us this video about the Mashavu project.
The Electronics and Computer Services Department in the College of Engineering at Penn State University recently conducted an informal survey of students and faculty across various disciplines to assess their virtual instrumentation needs. The results indicated that the students need hands-on courses that would cover interfacing computers of various form factors to a wide array of sensors, transducers and subsystems. To that end, faculty at PSU are using NCIIA funding to develop a new pilot course, Lab Automation and Rapid Product Development.
The pilot will be offered as a senior-level special topics course in spring 2007. Through the course, students will learn to: 1) identify processes and tasks in the research lab that can be automated; 2) define the product requirements; 3) determine how to meet design constraints and optimize system performance; 4) determine hardware and software requirements; 5) use small computer-based testing, measurement and automation systems; 6) work in teams; 7) develop communication skills; and 8) understand the process of working from idea to enterprise. Several teams will be affiliated with the Penn State chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World and work on appropriate engineering solutions for problems in developing countries.
Lion Launch Pad started as an non-profit in Pennsylvania in 2007 designed to encourage Penn State undergraduates to innovate and be entrepreneurs as well as to assist them in realizing their goals and ideas. In 2008 the Penn State administration started working with LLP to make LLP an official center within Penn State in early 2009. LLP will become an official aspect of Penn State’s strategy to achieve their university-wide goal of fostering innovation and entrepreneurship. This grant will provide funding support to Lion Launch Pad, Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship to achieve objectives during its first two years of operation. LLP will combine on campus office space and a local, state, national, and international mentoring network to serve LLP’s teams. LLP will work with student teams to take concepts developed in courses into sustainable business models. LLP will also develop Penn State’s entrepreneurship community through events, programs and other opportunities all geared towards involving students. LLP will provide seed funds to LLP teams, provide start-up infrastructure support, provide support of entrepreneurial pursuits and business competitions by students and develop a tool to assess LLP mentoring services and its entrepreneurship/innovation encouragement in the Penn State community.
For this course, teams of undergraduate engineering students design devices for the disabled to meet needs that aren't being met by off-the-shelf commercial products. Relying on connections with the local community, teams identify specific individuals with mobility problems, meet with physicians and rehabilitation clinicians, assess needs, and design and develop mobility products.
Key to this project is the use of The Learning Factory at Penn State, where students complete a semester-long design project as their senior capstone design course. Here, students determine feasibility, conduct engineering analysis, and build the devices. The goal of the design projects is to produce an actual product or working prototype by the end of the course.
With this grant, the Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) service learning program at PSU will work to improve rural Kenyans’ economic well-being by addressing challenges of low agricultural productivity of Kenyan farmers due to their use of simple instruments and tools. HESE service learning program-enrolled PSU students will work with students from the University of Nairobi and Moi University to design a variety of agricultural devices (both manual and powered) to significantly improve productivity of the farmers. It is expected that, as farmers' incomes increase through the use of the improved manual devices, they will be able to purchase an engine and appropriate attachments powered by the engine, thus increasing productivity even further. Examples of potential devices include water pumps, electric generators, posho mills, decorticators, tillers, and power tools.
Summer 2009 update: By June 2008 this team designed a water well utility rig and rock crusher. By October 2008 they had designed and constructed a utility cart and sisal decorticator. In July 2009, after travel and consultation with local businesses and entrepreneurs, university partners and local communities, the team decided to focus all of its efforts on the development of a water well drilling rig and related business opportunities. During the Fall 2009 semester design teams at Moi University, Jomo Kenyatta University and Pennsylvania State University will design and test the drilling apparatus with business plan development to occur during Spring 2010. Field testing will be undertaken in May 2010.