Inside Rensselaer
* Student Teams Earn Top Honors for Entrepreneurial Idea
Last summer, as part of their continued research and development for their project, several members of the Inka Minka Dairy Cooperative team traveled to Langui, Peru, and conducted market research by surveying 18 small-scale dairy farmers. Pictured here, a Peruvian woman is milking a cow in order to get milk that she will make into cheese and later sell at the local market. The group plans to travel to Peru again this summer. Image provided by Erin Lennox ’07.
Student Teams Earn Top Honors for Entrepreneurial Idea
Student creativity and entrepreneurial thinking for low-cost milk pasteurization, a sanitary and environmentally sensitive system for generating energy for hot water, and a revolutionary approach to plush toy manufacturing have received funding from the Rensselaer Class of ’51 Entrepreneurship Fund, established to help transform student ideas into successful ventures.

One of Rensselaer’s most active, generous, and supportive alumni groups, the Class of ’51 sponsors an annual competition to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to pursue early development of entrepreneurial ideas.

A grant of up to $5,000 is awarded each year to a winning individual or team. This year, a $500 honorable mention award also was presented to two additional teams.

Inka Minka Dairy Cooperative
Rensselaer graduate student Erin Lennox ’07 and undergraduates John Cannarella ’10, Ryan Lewis ’11, and Jared Stepanauskas ’10 were awarded $5,000 for their innovative technology and entrepreneurial approach to creating a dairy cooperative for socio-economically disadvantaged communities. The solution has global implications and includes an affordable solar-powered pasteurization technology usable in unhygienic conditions that allows poor farmers to obtain market certification for their milk, cheese, and yogurt production, thus creating a new level of income potential. The technology testing, cooperative formation, and market development are under way in Langui, Peru.

Live Ember Waste-Energy Water Heater
A proposal by Brent Solina ’11, a biochemistry/biophysics student at Rensselaer, was selected for a $500 honorable mention award for a design concept that the inventor’s project can help restaurant and food service facilities to decrease waste and maintenance costs, increase revenue, and retain jobs by using organic waste to generate heat to provide energy for hot water using methods that do not require removal of water from the waste.

Sustain-A-Bear Manufacturing Process
To help plush toy manufacturers meet the pressures of global recession, rising energy costs, and concern for sustainability, Rensselaer graduate students Christina Laskowski and Todd Snelson, along with undergrad student Saadia Safir ’10, have developed an ultrasonic welding approach to thermally bond soft recycled fleece that creates a thread-less and washer-less teddy bear shell that saves 90 percent of assembly and 50 percent of energy costs. This entry also earned a $500 honorable mention award.

“In addition to receiving funding, the competition winners also receive help from the Entrepreneur Support Committee, which includes faculty, alumni, and resources from Rensselaer’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Office of Technology Commercialization,” said Rob Chernow, vice provost for entrepreneurship and head of the Class of ’51 fund competition. “Our campus resources are invaluable and can provide experienced, knowledgeable guidance to foster further development to help our students move their ideas into the marketplace.”

The annual competition is judged by Chernow, with assistance from a committee of faculty members, graduate students, researchers, and alumni. This competition is one of three endowed funds established in 2000 by the Class of ’51 in honor of their 50th Reunion year.

“This commitment on the part of the Class of ’51 is an outstanding example of the collective foresight of a dedicated group of alumni, and Rensselaer is grateful for their generosity toward future generations of students and faculty,” Chernow said.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 6, April 2, 2010
©2010 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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