Published: Oct. 29, 2002

Skiers and snowboarders may soon have a smoother ride through halfpipes and snow terrain parks thanks to two grant-winning University of Colorado at Boulder student inventors.

David Kubicka and Kegan Paisley's "Halfpipe Helper" is a specially designed rakelike tool intended to make it easier for workers to create and maintain halfpipes, jumps and other ski area terrain features. The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance awarded the students $6,600 for development of the tool. 

"It looks like a medieval garden rake," Paisley said. "The curved, sharp-toothed aluminum blade adjusts as easily as a mop with its sliding and locking collar mechanism. The tool has been engineered to withstand the hardest environment and can be broken down to fit on your backpack at the end of the day."

An exhausting summer job at Mt. Hood Snowboard Camp in Oregon in 2001 inspired Kubicka, an expert snowboarder who hopes to compete professionally, to pursue the concept of an all-in-one tool specifically for snow terrain work.

"My main job as one of the 'diggers' was to shape and fine-tune various snow features, including halfpipes, jumps and other snow terrain features at the camp," he said. "Essentially, the work involved the hand use of simple tools like rakes and shovels. Some of these tools were specialized for their purposes, and designed by experts in the field of snow terrain management, but were overbuilt due to a lack of engineering behind the concepts. In addition, they were limited in functionality - we were using three different tools to accomplish one job."

"We just wanted a tool that offered a simple solution to these problems," he said.

The team is now looking into targeting other markets for the product. "Originally, it was exclusively for use at ski resorts, but we may be expanding to other areas like landscaping or asphalt work, as much of the same techniques and uses apply," Kubicka said.

"We wasted no time in pushing forward with our project," Paisley said. "All potential markets are worth looking into. However, we may have to apply for another grant."

Paisley and Kubicka were pleased and encouraged that the NCIIA, a national alliance of colleges and universities created to fund and nurture a new generation of innovators, awarded the grant. "It's good to know that there are organizations out there looking to support more than just pure academics," Kubicka said. "Concepts aren't very useful if you can't apply them. Our grant has helped us develop a sense for the need of programs like the NCIIA that assist people in exploring their potentials. Of course, we were also inspired that someone had faith in our idea."

Created in 1995, the alliance encourages faculty members, mentoring professionals and groups of students to pursue the development of an idea, product or invention, or to solve a problem in a way that is likely to result in the licensing of a new product or technology or the startup of an entrepreneurial venture. Past CU-Boulder design projects receiving money from NCIIA include a step-in telemark ski binding and a safer and more environmentally friendly rock climbing anchor.

Another NCIIA grant was recently awarded to CU's "Creating Appropriate Technologies for the Developing World" project, headed by civil engineering Professor Bernard Amadei. A grant of $6,000 was contributed toward the strategic planning and development of a Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology at the CU-Boulder College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Teams from 186 member institutions can apply for grants of up to $20,000 to

develop their ideas. The alliance will award approximately $2 million this year to a number of projects across the country. For more information about the NCIIA visit

Kubicka plans to graduate in May 2003 with a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. In addition to snowboarding professionally, he wants to continue working on engineering projects in the snowboarding industry. Paisley, a junior mechanical engineering major, plans to take time off after graduation and possibly pursue a master's degree in business.