*  Purdue University Idea-2-Product Competition

February 23, 2007

Student entrepreneurs to present inventions at Purdue competition

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue students will showcase their product design and entrepreneurial skills at the university's 2007 Idea-to-Product Competition for Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS. The Center for the Environment also will display a product called The Green Battery Box.
Learning software called Merlin's Magic Castle
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The event will take place at 8 a.m. Saturday (Feb. 24) at the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Purdue's Discovery Park and is sponsored by Purdue's EPICS Entrepreneurship Initiative and the Burton D. Morgan Center.

"Students involved with the EPICS program are encouraged to use their engineering skills to design and create products that will help society," said Nancy Clement, interim director of the EPICS Entrepreneurship Initiative.

The Green Battery Box is the first entry of the Center for the Environment's inaugural event in an Idea-2-Product competition.

"The design features a two-compartment box for new and spent batteries with a sliding divider," said Linda Lee, associate director of the Center for the Environment and a professor of environmental chemistry. "The biggest advantage to this box is that it can be used to its maximum capacity for shipping, storage and classification. This is important because nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries, such as 9-volt, AA and AAA, are sold each year in the United States."

Dry-cell batteries contain an electrolyte and a heavy metal that can contaminate soil and groundwater in landfills.

"If the batteries are recycled to harvest the component metals in them for new batteries, we are not only helping to protect the environment, but the process also uses 46 percent less energy than the traditional method of extracting metal ores from the ground," Lee said.

The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology team took top honors in the 2006 Purdue competition. The team invented the Sparklett Bracelet, an interactive bracelet that uses electroluminescent wires and radio frequency transceivers that communicate with a microprocessor.  When purchased as a kit, the young girls can create bracelets that will interact with each other. The student researchers identified their market as girls ages 10-14.

"By providing the girls with an opportunity to create their own bracelet, we hope it will ignite their interest in engineering, technology and science," Clement said. 

Teams are judged on their product's technology and the prototype or conceptual plan and how the product can meet a societal need.

"This year we are showcasing a group of sixth-grade students from an invention class at Happy Hollow Elementary School in West Lafayette," Clement said. "This will give them the opportunity to observe the competition and maybe inspire them to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams."

There are eight teams competing in the event. The top two teams will move on to the National Idea-to-Product Competition for EPICS and Social Entrepreneurship on March 24. Prizes for the national competition are $15,000 for first place, $8,000 for second place and $2,000 for third place. The program will be at Princeton University.

"Last year was the first time we took the national competition to another university. San Jose State University hosted the program, and it was a huge success," Clement said. "We had nine teams from various EPICS programs around the nation working on solutions to global issues.

"Taking the program on the road really helps raise national awareness about how universities, through service-learning programs, can create an environment for social entrepreneurship."

Last year's national EPICS teams included Purdue, Butler University, Bedford North Lawrence High School, University of California San Diego, Illinois Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University and San Jose State University. Social entrepreneurship teams from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, showcased their products at the competition as well.

"We are inviting other universities with similar programs to display their products at the competition again this year, but only EPICS teams will be competing at the national event," Clement said.

The Idea-to-Product competition is one of several Purdue events planned through March 4 in connection with the national EntrepreneurshipWeek USA effort, sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, The New York Times and INC. magazine.

With the theme What's Your Big Idea? Take it On! the EntrepreneurshipWeek USA initiative is designed to serve as an inspiration for college students to think creatively and to turn their ideas into action - whether that means starting a new business, developing an innovation for an existing company or solving a problem that helps make society better.

EPICS, founded at Purdue in 1995, is a program in which teams of undergraduates design, build and deploy real systems to solve engineering-based problems for local community service and education organizations.

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, (765) 494-4192,

Sources: Nancy Clement, (765) 494-9884, (765) 414-3938 (cell),

Linda Lee, (765) 494-8612,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Children at the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy, from left, Melissa Gonzalez, Lydia Adams and Mireya Mendoza work with Amicia Elliott and Alexei Czeskis to use learning software called Merlin's Magic Castle. Elliott and Czeskis, as member of a Purdue Engineering Projects in Community Service team, developed the software and a 2006 prize-winning business plan for commercializing it. This year's Purdue Idea-2-Product competition will take place Feb. 24 at Purdue. (Purdue News Service file photo/David Umberger)

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