CU-Boulder Students To Showcase Invention At Smithsonian In March

Published: Feb. 28, 2001

An environmentally friendly rock climbing anchor that was designed by CU-Boulder engineering students will be on display at the Smithsonian Institution March 7, as part of an exhibit of top inventions by students from around the nation.

The exhibit, called "March Madness for the Mind," will feature 15 student inventions from colleges and universities in Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Massachusetts, New York and Virginia. Sponsored by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, the event coincides with the fifth annual NCIIA conference on technology, products and ventures in higher education.

"Just as the best college basketball players gather at the Final Four in March, the best college inventors will gather at the Smithsonian," said NCIIA program manager Phil Weilerstein. "Each student-inventor is turning a good idea into a marketable product or innovation-while still in school. We are proud of their work."

The CU-Boulder invention, called a "2Cam Rock Anchor," is a spring-loaded mechanical device that uses cams to secure itself in the rock. The device uses two overlapping cams, rather than three or four offset cams like conventional cam anchors. It can be used in narrow cracks or even piton scars, and then removed without a trace.

Seth Murray, a mechanical engineering senior from Boulder, came up with the idea through his years of rock climbing experience. He was joined by three other engineering students - Greg Wolos, Tucker Southern and Shane Stamm -- who helped to develop the 2Cam during the senior design project sequence taught by Professor Larry Carlson in the fall of 1999 and spring of 2000.

During the first semester, a prototype was designed that proved the concept of the 2Cam. The second semester involved fabricating three additional prototypes based on the results of product testing.

The students were awarded an NCIIA grant in the summer of 2000 to further develop the product for the marketplace. They were joined by two business students, who helped write a business plan and file for a U.S. patent. Now, Murray, along with recent engineering graduate Michael Haag, and business graduate, Brian Ladd, have formed a company, "Peregrine Mountaineering," to sell the product starting this summer.

"I came up with the idea to make the 2Cam after I climbed the Shield Route on El Capitan in Yosemite," Murray said. "The Shield, as well as many other routes, needs a device like the 2Cam to provide a safer and more environmentally friendly alternative for protection anchors."

Murray, Haag and Southern will travel to Washington, D.C., March 6-9 for the exhibit and NCIIA conference.

CU-Boulder's College of Engineering has pioneered student involvement in hands-on design projects starting in the student's first year of engineering through the Integrated Teaching and Learning Laboratory. Pursuing patents and taking student inventions to the marketplace also has been a focus of the program.