michigan technological university

Velovations in Kenya: Co-Development to Sustainable Local Production

Michigan Technological University (Michigan Tech), 2010 - $47,500

Velovations is a group of roughly thirty Michigan Tech undergraduates, graduates, researchers, and faculty performing testing, research, and development for the bicycle industry. In cooperation with Michigan Tech’s Mechanical Engineering Peace Corps Masters International (PCMI) program, and led by returned Peace Corps volunteers who have worked in Africa, Velovations has identified a set of bicycle product opportunities particular to East Africa. Over the next three years, Velovations will work with Cycling out of Poverty, the African Bicycle Network and others (including a designer who worked on bikes for the Tour de France and Beijing Olympics) to develop products that meet East African needs and provide opportunities for local production.

Per their market research, the students will specifically look into modifying, accessorizing, or servicing the ubiquitous Tata bike, a brand of bicycle that is omnipresent in Africa. Key issues they identified were large load carrying, a lack of female riders, men being uncomfortable using women’s bikes (conversion kits), and flat tires (the solution is an affordable solid tire).

NCIIA funding will allow for increased product development capabilities, enable travel to East Africa to solidify relationships and find new development and production partners.


  • The team has incorporated as Baisikeli Ugunduzi and moved to sub-Saharan Africa to work on the company directly (May 2012)
  • The team has a new video and a fundraising campaign (October 2012)

Enhanced Bio-morphic Helmet

Michigan Technological University, 2007 - $15,500

Today's standard football helmet design includes a hard outer shell, a protective foam layer, and a comfort foam layer resting on the head. An impact occurring directly to the hard shell is distributed over the padding, which deforms in compression. This works well for direct impacts, protecting against concussion, but doesn't perform as well for indirect or rotational impacts, since the padding is relatively stiff with respect to shear forces.

This E-Team is developing the Enhanced Bio-morphic Helmet (EBM), an improved helmet better able to withstand indirect impacts. The design of the EBM imitates the protection system of the human brain, scalp, skull and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The skull is simulated with a composite sandwich shell, the scalp by silicone gel sandwiched between the outer and inner wall of the shell, and the CSF by a soft padding system underneath the inner wall.

Eco-Innovating a Better World

Michigan Technological University, 2008 - $6,500.00

The D80 Center at Michigan Technological University is dedicated to alleviating suffering and inequity through development for the world's poorest 80%. Comprised of six distinct programs, the initiative fosters an international educational strategy, providing opportunities to students at all educational levels. In spring 2007, the university approved an undergraduate Certificate in International Sustainable Development Engineering, meant to provide an engineering student breadth in the areas of ethics, resource equity, interactions between technology and society, engineering connections with the environment, engineering materials, and water/sanitation.

The D80 program has reached the point where it is ready to move from applying appropriate technological solutions to creating and disseminating them. However, the current curriculum does not actively promote affordable design, innovation, and social entrepreneurship. With this grant, MTU faculty plan to integrate entrepreneurial elements into the D80 program with the partnership of Dow Corning, a leader in eco-innovation, who will mentor Michigan Tech faculty and students from business and engineering. Faculty will then incorporate eco-innovation into the classroom, students will incorporate entrepreneurial solutions into their projects, and a university-industrial partnership centered on innovation will be built.

Invention and Entrepreneuring

University of Virginia-Main Campus - $3500.00

This course is for students who have taken a course in creative problem solving to apply what they have learned by inventing or developing a product or a process. In addition, students learn additional principles of entrepreneurship and hone their teamwork skills in E-Teams. The course is team taught by one professor in mechanical engineering and one from business management. Both have taught creative problem solving and model the process throughout the development of this interdisciplinary pilot course. The course is a one hour seminar and three hours of lab per week for student E-Teams to work on prototyping and patent searching. Students are drawn from engineering, computer science, and engineering management. Topics covered in the course include teamwork and communication, creative problem solving, patenting, entrepreneurship, and marketing. The course will teach an inventing process including problem identification, idea generation, feasibility study, design and specifications, and prototype construction and testing
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