Inside Rensselaer
* Student Start-Ups Win Top Prizes at  National Innovation Showcase
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Gavin McIntyre ’07 and Eben Bayer ’07, founders of Ecovative Design LLC, have developed an environmentally friendly organic insulation called Greensulate™ that could replace conventional foam insulations, which are expensive to produce and harmful to the environment.
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Student Start-Ups Win Top Prizes at  National Innovation Showcase
Two Rensselaer student start-up companies took first and second place at this year’s inaugural Innovation Showcase (I-Show) competition Nov. 9 in Seattle, Wash. Ecovative Design LLC and JDAxis Corporation, both companies that are focused on developing products to improve the environment and people’s lives, won first and second place, receiving $5,000 and $3,000 respectively.

The competition was sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in collaboration with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) and Idea to Product (I2P) competitions.

The I-Show is a competition that encourages collegiate student teams to display and present their technological innovations to an audience that includes successful entrepreneurs, seed venture capitalists, and intellectual property specialists. Judges decide the best and most feasible ideas, and winners will receive cash prizes and additional product and start-up support, according to ASME.

Both of the winning projects started with the students identifying, understanding, and defining unrecognized needs while enrolled in Inventor’s Studio, a course developed by Burt Swersey, a lecturer in the department of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering and a member of Rensselaer’s Product Design and Innovation (PDI) faculty.

“I insist that my students learn problem-finding skills. They must focus on ‘needs’ that would make life better for users and not ‘wants,’ so the end result should be sustainable, affordable, and socially responsible projects,” says Swersey, who also serves as an adviser to the two student start-ups. “I require problem-finding based on understanding through research, fact-based decisions using metrics, analytical modeling, critical thinking, creativity, and of course, developing an ‘attitude for success’ based on optimism, openness, and entrepreneurial thinking.”

There were 10 finalists from universities across the nation, including the University of Idaho, St. Louis University, Oregon State University, Texas A&M University, Penn State University, University of Texas at Austin, and Washington State University.

Ecovative Design, LLC
Rensselaer graduates (with dual degrees in mechanical engineering and PDI) Eben Bayer ’07 and Gavin McIntyre ’07 have developed an environmentally friendly organic insulation called Greensulate™. Created from waste agricultural materials, water, and mushrooms, the patent-pending insulation could replace conventional foam insulations, which are expensive to produce and harmful to the environment. The organic insulation is created by pouring a mixture of insulating particles, hydrogen peroxide, starch, and water into a panel enclosure, and injecting it with mushroom cells that digest the starch and produce a tightly meshed network of insulating particles and mycelium. The end result is an organic composite board that has a competitive R-Value—a measurement of resistance to heat flow — and can serve as a firewall.

Bayer and McIntyre have formed a company, Ecovative Design, and are working to produce larger samples of the insulation using different substrates, insulating particles, and growth conditions.

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Student Start-Ups Win Top Prizes at  National Innovation Showcase
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The founders of JDAxis Corporation, Jessica Chin ’07 and Daniel Farrow ’07, are developing a device that could aid diabetic patients with early identification of foot disorders caused by the disease. Pictured is an example of an image from the company’s foot-scanning device called STOMP (Scanning Thermal and Optical Measurement Platform).
“Burt has been essential in helping me move Greensulate™ from a concept, to a prototype, and into a functioning product,” Bayer says. “Burt teaches and communicates a broad range of useful concepts, from designing for the other 90 percent, to techniques for identifying real problems, to understanding and implementing entirely new ways of thinking and viewing the world.”

“The Product Design and Innovation program was unique in comparison to other universities’ standard mechanical engineering curriculum, which focus around books rather than application,” McIntyre says. “By enrolling in this interdisciplinary major I realized my designs each semester and developed operable technology that solved a multitude of needs.”

JDAxis Corporation
Almost 250 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, including more than 20 million people in the United States alone, according to statistics from the American Diabetes Association and the International Diabetes Federation. The founders of JDAxis Corporation are creating a device that could aid diabetic patients with early identification of foot disorders caused by the disease.

Rensselaer mechanical engineering graduates Jessica Chin ’07, who also majored in biomedical engineering, and Daniel Farrow ’07, now pursuing his master’s at Rensselaer, are developing a foot-scanning device called STOMP (Scanning Thermal and Optical Measurement Platform). The device consists of an all-in-one scanner, printer, fax, external speakers, thermal gradient straps, and an LCD screen for viewing. The device will scan visual and infrared images of the bottom of an individual’s foot, obtain blood pressure and heart rate readings, and check skin surface temperature, swelling, increased hardness, and moisture content.

“The I-Show competition was an incredible experience for JDAxis as a start-up engineering company,” says Chin, president and CEO. “Being a year-long competition, there were milestones that had to be met in order to stay in the competition. Because of this competition, we were able to completely re-evaluate our entire business and technology and build a much stronger foundation for the company and for STOMP.”
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Inside Rensselaer, Strategic Communications and External Relations
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 1, Number 8, November 29, 2007
©2007 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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