Big shout out to NCIIA student ambassador Adam Smith (pictured) who helped organize last week's Invention to Venture workshop at Portland State University. Over 200 would-be entrepreneurs attended, a record for any NCIIA-organized workshop. Said Adam:
"As co-planner of I2V Portland, I couldn't be happier with the turnout and quality of this year's event. With six phenomenal speakers and 207 registrants from eight regional colleges and universities, it turned out to be a fantastic networking opportunity for student entrepreneurs, faculty, and regional business leaders.
It's clear to me that the level of interest in entrepreneurship among students may be very underestimated, especially among my peers at Portland State! For the event itself, we wanted to inspire and empower students by hearing first-hand from successful entrepreneurs they could relate to. From here, there is so much we can do to keep the momentum going by providing resources and guidance to get more student-led ventures off the ground. I'm really inspired to think of the social and economic benefits that could result from innovative new companies and technologies that will grow from this type of exposure to the types of programs offered by NCIIA."
In 2007, Portland State University and international development organization Green Empowerment (GE) partnered to offer a capstone for graduating seniors. The course provides the opportunity for independent research on international development and renewable energy. This grant supports a new program, Sustainable Innovations for Tomorrow's Social Entrepreneurs, that builds on the capstone model, developing a more intensive set of skills and business expertise, with a central emphasis on commercialization.
The program will create three new courses, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Research and Design in Appropriate Sustainable Technology, and Application of Sustainable Technologies in Developing Countries. The new courses will introduce fundamental ecological concepts, provide an understanding of global sustainability, and foster invention and innovation in appropriate technology design. Green Empowerment will provide hands on experiential learning opportunities for student teams by providing a workspace and personalized training in renewable energy and clean-water technologies. GE will also assist teams with finding funding to implement their proposals.
In the near future, wireless sensor networks are expected to revolutionize our instrumentation and understanding of the physical world, especially in the monitoring of our ecosystems for human health. Faculty from the Computer Science department at Portland State University, in collaboration with the School of Business Administration, are developing a practicum course on entrepreneurially oriented sensor networks in which students design cost-effective sensor technology applications in health and ecosystem monitoring for the developing world. Students work on quarter-long research projects drawn from the health care, intelligent transportation, and coastal monitoring fields. NCIIA funds are to be used to more than double the student capacity of the course by purchasing various additional wireless embedded devices, sensor boards, video sensors, programming boards, and other equipment.
The course is open to upper-level undergraduate and graduate students in computer science and electrical engineering and directly follows a graduate seminar course in sensor networks. Students acquire practical, hands-on training and experience in programming, deploying, and evaluating state-of-the-art wireless, embedded sensor networks. Successful student teams are encouraged to explore commercialization of their innovations through a partnership with the Lab2Market program in the School of Business Administration.
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 an improved walking device that incorporates removable wheels, shock absorbers on each of the four legs, height and width adjustment, a lightweight frame with a wider base at the rear, and detachable accessories such as a seat, basket, cupholder, and more. The team had the full support of Keen Mobility, an NCIIA alumnus and developer of mobility devices for the medical field, allowing the team access to Keen Mobility's resources, relationships with external manufacturing partners, external expert advice, and testing facilities. Moreover, this relationship led the team to adopt Keen Mobility's direct-to-customer distribution model, which should reduce promotional costs significantly.