Inside Rensselaer
* A Meeting of the Minds: Student Team Participates  in NCIIA Exhibition

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The MineWerks patent-pending detection system can sense the presence of many dangerous compounds from a distance.
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A Meeting of the Minds: Student Team Participates  in NCIIA Exhibition
A team of Rensselaer students was among several collegiate teams from around the country that showcased their innovative technologies during the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) annual March Madness for the Mind exhibition in conjunction with the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation March 20. The event was held at the recently reopened National Museum of American History.

MineWerks is developing a groundbreaking, patent-pending detection system that can sense the presence of many dangerous compounds from a distance. The brainchild of Rensselaer undergraduate students Alessandro Gerbini, Dane Kouttron, Kevin Menear, and Brian Zaik, and graduate student Chris Scully, the device is being designed to help solve the global problem associated with unexploded ordnances such as land mines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

“We have been working on this project for some time,” said Chris Scully, chief operating officer. “With many explosives-detection mechanisms costing tens of thousands of dollars and requiring great expertise for operation, the low-cost and easy-to-use MineWerks device offers a paradigm shift from the state of the art. The NCIIA has provided our team with funding, coaching, and support that has been absolutely crucial to our development, putting us one step closer to achieving our goal: a world without land mines.”

The annual exhibition provides an opportunity for the nation’s top Excellence and Entrepreneurship Teams (E-Teams) — collaborating groups of college students, faculty, and industry mentors who have received NCIIA grants — to unveil their inventions to the public, many for the first time. More than a dozen E-Teams displayed their state-of-the-art innovations during the public exhibition, as well as at a private exhibition for conference guests attending the NCIIA’s Thirteenth Annual Meeting.

“Now more than ever the economy needs to be stimulated by innovation, and these students are on the right path to making a difference,” said Phil Weilerstein, executive director of the NCIIA.

“We developed this technology with the goal of providing a fast, cheap, reliable, and safe explosives-detection method that can be utilized for both military and humanitarian purposes,” said Kevin Menear, director of R&D. “The MineWerks vision is to get high-quality explosives-detection methods into the hands of those with the most need: the soldiers on the battlefield wary of IEDs and roadside bombs and the farmers and villagers in communities ravaged by land mines.”

“The best inventors look at the things we all take for granted and say, this could be better,” said Burt Swersey, lecturer in mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering and adviser to the team. “MineWerks was able to identify real-life problems and solve it through self-motivation, creative thinking, and innovation. That is what we strive for with all of our students.”

The NCIIA works with the nation’s leading universities and colleges to help E-Teams move their innovative technologies from idea to market. According to the organization, approximately 42 patent applications have resulted from projects supported by NCIIA grants, which have also helped to create 60 new businesses. The companies manufacture and sell products in many industries including wireless technology, medical devices, alternative energy, construction, safety, and transport, among others.

For more information, visit http://www.nciia.org.
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 3, Number 4, April 10, 2009
©2009 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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