CU-Boulder Students Win $25,000 In Grants To Market Inventions

Published: Feb. 17, 2002

Two teams of CU-Boulder students have been awarded a total of more than $25,000 to develop and take their inventions to market under a grant program sponsored by the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance.

One of the teams has invented an advanced snowboard binding that allows a snowboarder to adjust the angle of the binding in relation to the board with the easy flip of a lever. The team received $11,970 from the NCIIA to further develop its prototype, which team members say will help prevent knee strain and injury, especially when a snowboarder is maneuvering a lift line.

The team plans to market the product to binding manufacturers as a new feature for next-generation snowboard bindings.

"Our group is extremely excited about the opportunity to further develop our binding prototype," said team leader Brian Gleeson, a senior majoring in engineering physics. Other students on the team are Jason Hawley, Mike Hooten, Eric Lee, Chadwick Miller and Lisa Rodgers.

"The whole project has been an incredible introduction to real-world product design and practical engineering," Gleeson continued. "We hope that with the new funding, and the outstanding faculty support we have already received, we can develop a product that will enter the national market before we graduate."

A second team has been granted $13,900 to further develop a tire deformation monitoring system, which would alert motorists to an under- or over-inflated tire. 

The system, which has the potential to improve an automobile's safety as well as its gas mileage, monitors the shape of a vehicle's tire by recording the output voltage from two magnetic sensors mounted inside the wheel rim. The system then will send a signal to the motorist via a receiver on the car's dashboard. 

Team members Andrew Pilkington, Katie Schomberg, Chris Sheridan, Jesse Vader and Karen Zecca plan to market the system to auto manufacturers after further research and development.

Both products were initially developed in the Fall 2001 Invention and Innovation class offered by the College of Engineering and Applied Science. Students in the class researched existing patents, performed a business feasibility study and invented and built a working prototype of their designs. Students then teamed with a business student to apply for NCIIA funding to further develop their products and business ideas in the spring, summer and fall of 2002.

"Invention and innovation are vital for increasing our nation's capacity to perform," said Jackie Sullivan, who co-teaches the CU Invention and Innovation course with Professor Larry Carlson. "We're excited to have the opportunity for students to get engaged in inventing new products and taking them to the marketplace early in their engineering experience."

The NCIIA grant money will pay for materials, initial patent work and a modest stipend for students to continue their product development to the patent stage.  

Other CU-Boulder student inventions recently funded by NCIIA grants include a two-cam rock climbing anchor, a device for hauling equipment during rock climbing, a remote keyless bike lock and a swing for use by disabled children. The two-cam project team founded its own company, Splitter Gear, and has successfully marketed its product.

Team members received their first patent for the two-cam device in December 2001.