pennsylvania state university

Former E-Team Buzby Networks technology will keep seniors safe in care centers

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.

Read more here.

WishVast: Building Trust and Social Capital using Cell-Phones profile

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.

back to complete list of Open Minds 2011 teams

Obama promotes clean energy agenda at Penn State

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.

Social Entrepreneurship Course Development

Pennsylvania State University, 2009 - $10,000

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.

Internationalizing Entrepreneurship Education Program (IEEP)

Pennsylvania State University, 2009 - $31,700

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.

One doctor for every 50,000 people...

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.





From Research Lab to Product: Lab Automation Course to Enable Rapid Product Development

Pennsylvania State University, 2006 - $25,000

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 - Center for Penn State Student Entrepreneurship

Pennsylvania State University, 2008 - $28,000

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.

Team MEDS Multidisciplinary Engineering Design Students, Projects for Persons with Disabilities

Pennsylvania State University, 2007 - $27,000

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.

Sustainable Manufacturing in Kenya: Collaborative Design of an Agricultural Utility System

Pennsylvania State University, 2006 - $47,900

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.

Mashavu: networked health solutions for people in Tanzania

Another cool innovation from NCIIA's Sustainable Vision program - the Mashavu healthcare system, created by a team at Penn State. Think Tanzania, where there's one doctor for every 50,000 people, meaning that many never see a doctor in their lives. Think technology: Biomedical diagnostic tools and a data entry system, operated by trained local villagers. The diagnostic system is connected to a network of doctors in the US, who can review the data and prescribe situation-appropriate medical treatment. In this video, team leader Khanjan Mehta describes the technology (clips provided by Cornell University's eClips program).

Khanjan talks more about Mashavu here.



Pennsylvania State University, 2004 - $6,000

This E-Team developed the Shelton Wing in Ground Effect (SWIG) vehicle, a type of airplane/boat that skims the surface of water. Flying near the ground reduces drag and increases lift, allowing Wing In Ground (WIG) vehicles to move at high speeds while consuming little fuel. However, traditional WIG vehicles have significant stability and control problems, causing frequent wrecks and preventing them from achieving commercial success. Computerized flight controls have solved the stability problems of large WIG vehicles, but are too costly to be practical for small WIG vehicles. Three-axis airplane-like controls solve the stability problem as well, but require special pilot training, creating a barrier to wide commercialization. To solve these problems, this E-Team innovated the WIG, adding forward wheels to the wings (skis for water operation) that stay in light contact with the surface. The wheels balance the pitching of the vehicle, creating a reliably safe, fast, and fuel-efficient transport.

The E-Team consisted of two senior finance majors, a senior astrophysics major, a senior advertising/public relations major, and a senior aerospace engineering student with pilot experience. Advisors to the team included three professors of aerospace engineering, a patent attorney, and a financial consultant.

Design and Construction of a Hybrid Energy System in Kenya: The Precursor to a Manufacturing Capability

Pennsylvania State University, 2005 - $12,000

As part of the Engineers for a Sustainable World program at PSU, this course involved students in creating a hybrid solar/wind power system in Ngegu village in the Division of Rangwe, Kenya, with particular emphasis on water pumps to provide clean water. Currently, residents have to travel a few kilometers to retrieve water that is often polluted, or, worse, has dried up, leading to waterborne disease and high mortality rates. The team also designed a sisal decorticator--a machine that more efficiently harvests the fibers of the sisal plant. Currently these fibers are harvested using a painstakingly slow process that requires entire families to be engaged in harvesting throughout the day.

This project was worked on by four institutions at once: a PSU team of engineering students designed a windmill in conjunction with an engineering team at the University of Nairobi, who initiated the project; a team of business students enrolled in the Introduction to Entrepreneurship course at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) developed a business model for generating funds to support the project; students from all three institutions formed an entrepreneurship team that continued to engage in fundraising and developed a business model; and the Kochia Development Group, an organization of Kenyan businessmen and women who actively seek projects to improve rural Kenya, provided mentoring and feedback to ensure the project is socially and economically feasible.

Grantee update: The right tools for the job

The Penn State Agricultural Utility System team, a Sustainable Vision grantee,  recently returned from another trip to Kenya where they are developing agricultural tools such as a water well drilling rig and a sisal decorticator.

Here's the drill in action.





i-conserve Energy Management System

Pennsylvania State University, 2005 - $15,750

While energy conservation is becoming increasingly important in today's world, there is no convenient, inexpensive, easy-to-use energy monitoring and control product for residential and small business markets. To fill the void, this E-Team developed i-conserve, an energy conservation solution for small businesses and homes that consists of a wireless sensor network of modules (outlets), a base station that acts as a hub for the information in the network, and software that modifies energy settings in order to maximize efficiency and also provides the user with recommendations on how to improve efficiency. The base station is a USB ZigBee dongle (an electronic device that must be attached to a computer in order for it to use protected software) that allows a computer to communicate with the ZigBee mesh network. ZigBee itself is a new advancement in wireless sensor network technology that represents a reduction in cost and power consumption.

The team received a small amount of funding as part of the 2002 "E-SHIP Venture Fund and Competitions" Course and Program grant to PSU. The team has already begun prototyping, attended a ZigBee conference to begin networking, and filed two provisional patents.

Buzby Networks

Pennsylvania State University, 2007 - $18,000

The Buzby Networks team is creating a wireless network solution for the healthcare industry, particularly nursing homes. The team's system will allow for the wireless tracking of patients, equipment, and personnel.

The need for Buzby's network comes primarily from the tendency of some nursing home patients to wander off, escape, and put themselves and others in danger. Buzby Networks believes its wireless technology will provide peace of mind to families and staff.

Mashavu: Networked Health Solutions for the Developing World

Pennsylvania State University, 2008 - $46,850

Mashavu enables medical professionals around the world to connect with patients in the developing world using modern technology and communications infrastructure. The goal is to bring basic medical care to people in developing countries, using laptops, cell phones, innovative software and simple medical devices.


Trained operators at Mashavu stations in developing communities collect essential medical information including weight, body temperature, lung capacity, blood pressure, photographs, stethoscope rhythms, and basic hygiene and nutrition information for each patient on a regular basis. Web servers aggregate this information from various Mashavu stations over a cell-phone link and provide it on a web-based portal. Medical professionals can view the patient’s information and respond to the patient and the nearest doctor(s) with their recommendations. Validation efforts have shown that numerous entities are willing to purchase Mashavu stations. They can charge customers a small fee, thereby making Mashavu economically sustainable and creating an additional revenue stream.

Students and villagers working at a Mashavu station.

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