By Michael Hill
A train you can board while it’s moving — almost. You board a shuttle car. It catches up to and automatically couples with the train.
“A main train can keep going. You can get on a train at your first station and you never have to worry about the train stopping,” said Andrew Deutchman, mechanical engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology.
That’s just one of the many designs of Stevens Institute of Technology bright minds for the 2015 Innovation Expo.
Eight of them pitched their projects in a Shark Tank-like competition to a panel of industry executives who will judge them on presentation and business viability.
The designers of this human-mimicing robotic “Ambler” say they can make and sell their product for 85 percent less than others on the market.
“We’ve integrated inexpensive materials that demand minimal manufacturing time into a fluid design with a small price tag but great proficiency,” said Louise Moores, mechanical engineering for the bipedal robot.
Scrumptious Secrets just launched a month ago to bring to market natural products mom and pops make in Vermont.
“I’m their gateway to share the deliciousness of Vermont,” said Scrumptious Secrets founder and CEO Jessica Spanier.
The makers of Cornys — a popular Egyptian snack — corn puffs say snacks can be good for you and they can make and sell a truly “full” bag at a 75 percent profit.
“We have the best possible problem that anyone could ask for — having a greater demand than supply,” said Cornys Business Manager Laura Garbarini.
“Here’s the facts. After taste testing with over 400 consumers in the tri-state area, nine out of 10 asked where they could buy our product,” said Anthony Montufar, business major.
The designers of the exoskeleton are challenging major defense contractors. They say their centaur can make America’s soldiers stronger and faster and reduce their fatigue levels. Mary Michelle Easter, who’s accepted a job as a NASA rocket scientist — “I like the word rocket engineer,” she said — demonstrates how it works.
“So as I flex my muscle, it rotates up and comes back down. The benefit of using EMG signals as opposed to a traditional four sensor-based method is that you’re reading directly from the user,” she said.
But the judges’ favorite and winner of $3,000 is the structural aristocrat of Stevens — a thermal plastic made from recycled material for short-span bridges to replace crumbling concrete and rusting steel.
“Municipalities invest in this they won’t have to worry about taxing their communities and taxpayers even more for maintenance costs because this material could hold up to the job that it needs to,” said Andrew Singh.
Some of the student designs directly challenge what’s already on the market — products made by global corporations, Fortune 500 companies.
“So the fact that some of these guys are coming up against some Fortune 100, Fortune 1 companies I think is a great thing, a great sign. It shows the ambition of what entrepreneurship is about,” said Rocketfuel founder Aaron Price.
President Obama appointed Winslow Sargeant as the chief counsel for advocacy for the Small Business Administration.
“Every company knows that unless they innovate, they’re going to be left behind and so they can’t discount all these small companies they start out small and they become big,” Sargeant said.
Stevens Institute of Technology says these designs are the result of impressing upon its freshmen that they could be the inventor of the next great thing.