No Pain, All Gain

A New Way to Relieve Pain

Sometimes, it helps to look at a problem with fresh eyes. That’s what University of Louisville researcher Dr. Jeff Petruska did, when he discovered a new, safer way to relieve pain. 

He began work on the local anesthetic after noticing the surprising numbing effects of a drug already used in veterinary medicine. Unlike other drugs already on the market, this one doesn’t come from cocaine, which can prevent healing, cause damage or result in overuse. 

“This will be the first anesthetic of its kind that’s not derived from cocaine,” said Dr. Patrick Scott, an assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, who helped develop the technology. “So, we’re really excited about it because it’s essentially a new generation of aesthetics that will be available.” 

The product got a boost after a successful bid for UofL’s ExCITE program, a competitive National Institutes of Health (NIH) REACH grant designed to turn biomedical innovations into commercial products that improve patient care and enhance human health. Aside from funding, awardees also get training and mentorship. 

“The training that we received here at UofL… taught me a lot about how to change the science that we do, and make it more directly applicable for commercialization,”  said Petruska, assistant professor of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology and member of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center.

Rebecca Brown, who manages the ExCITE program, said Petruska had originally proposed an injectable anesthetic. While that had a lot of potential applications, market research and customer discovery through the UofL National Science Foundation I-Corps Site program revealed a need for a topical drug.

“It was really in the process of understanding his market and talking to clinicians that he found this wide-open space, this unmet clinical need,” she said.

So, Petruska pivoted. Then, he licensed the technology through the UofL Office of Technology Transfer, and is working to commercialize it through a new startup company — “dSentz,” he said, “as in ‘desensitize.’” 

Now, the team is working to meet requirements set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which would need to approve the drug before it goes to market. 

This will be the first anesthetic of its kind that’s not derived from cocaine. So, we’re really excited about it because it’s essentially a new generation of aesthetics that will be available.
— Dr. Patrick Scott, an assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
“The training that we received here at UofL… taught me a lot about how to change the science that we do, and make it more directly applicable for commercialization.”
— Dr. Jeff Petruska, assistant professor of Anatomical Sciences and Neurobiology and member of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center

One 'cool' project

GE Appliances, UofL partner for energy efficiency

The innovation team at GE Appliances, a Haier company, and the University of Louisville recently partnered on a 'cool' refrigerator project. 

The Kentucky-based home appliances manufacturer enlisted UofL to help develop controls systems for a new compressor that will make its refrigerators more energy efficient. The controls system would allow the compressor to take measurements and optimize automatically.

“They’ve (UofL) been instrumental into the controls side of that project,” said Senior Compressor Engineer, Greg Hahn. “It helps us get an edge on intellectual property, so we’ve got more access to deeper knowledge of controls and cutting-edge techniques.”

UofL J.B. Speed School of Engineering associate professor, Dr. Micheal McIntyre, and his graduate student, Joe Latham, have worked with GE Appliances on the project since its inception in 2012.

“It’ll help their refrigerator products to use less energy,” McIntyre said. That forward-thinking will help the company “stay in the marketplace when energy standards become more challenging and difficult to meet.”

This new technology is expected to help the refrigerators use 10 to 15 percent less energy, saving customers money.

This isn’t the first time GE Appliances and UofL have worked together. The former hosts UofL students for hands-on learning co-ops, and the latter has helped GE Appliances solve problems and create new products.

One notable example is FirstBuild, a maker space and microfactory on UofL’s Belknap campus where GE Appliances has used open innovation to create new products like the Opal Nugget Ice Maker and Paragon Induction Cooktop.

“They (UofL) have quite a few ideas to help us out as a company,” said Power Electronics Engineer, Srujan Kusumba. “Not just that, but the way of thinking helps us to explore more ideas and also learn new things.”

McIntyre said UofL also learns new things when it partners with industry — and it gives students a chance to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom on real-world problems.

“The value of this is really incalculable,” Latham said. “It’s been great getting to bridge between the academic and industrial world.”

They’ve (UofL) been instrumental into the controls side of that project. It helps us get an edge on intellectual property, so we’ve got more access to deeper knowledge of controls and cutting-edge techniques.
— Greg Hahn, GE Appliances Senior Compressor Engineer
They (UofL) have quite a few ideas to help us out as a company. Not just that, but the way of thinking helps us to explore more ideas and also learn new things.
— Srujan Kusumba, GE Appliances Power Electronics Engineer

Get Up, Get Moving

Get Up, Get Moving

Need a workout buddy? A new mobile app developed at the University of Louisville can do the heavy lifting.

The app, MoveMe, was created by a team in the Entrepreneurship MBA program at the UofL College of Business. The idea is pretty simple — like a sports version of Match.com or eHarmony, the app matches people with others who share their schedule, interests and level of fitness. 

"It's not just pairing you with anyone," said co-founder Eric Reskin. "It's pairing you with the most compatible partner to help achieve your goals." 

Reskin and partner Andy Ortegon came up with the idea after surveying about 100 people around Louisville about pain points that might keep them from getting a good workout. They found that most people needed a buddy for accountability, but had trouble finding others who were compatible. 

The team developed their product and business plan in the Entrepreneurship MBA program, which walks students through launching a startup step-by-step. They're given guidance, legal services and practice pitching to investors. 

"By the time many of our students graduate, they already have investors lined up, too," said Dr. Van Clouse, chair of the Forcht Center for Entrepreneurship. "They know what investors look for, they know how to pitch to investors and they and they're designing their businesses to enable them to raise money to support their dreams." 

Teams also compete for funding at competitions. MoveMe, for example, won Kentucky's statewide 2016 Idea State U competition, and took home $25,000 to continue work on their app and company — which Reskin says they certainly plan to do. 

"MoveMe started just as an academic thing, but we really fell in love with the idea," he said. "And we tried day after day to find someone to tell us we're idiots and we need to stop, but it hasn't happened yet. So, we're going to continue and now we get to really focus on the true development of the app and the business itself." 

MoveMe started just as an academic thing, but we really fell in love with the idea. And we tried day after day to find someone to tell us we’re idiots and we need to stop, but it hasn’t happened yet. So, we’re going to continue and now we get to really focus on the true development of the app and the business itself.
— Eric Reskin, UofL MBA grad and MoveMe co-founder
By the time many of our students graduate, they already have investors lined up, too, because they know what investors look for, they know how to pitch to investors and they and they’re designing their businesses to enable them to raise money to support their dreams.
— Dr. Van Clouse, chair of the Forcht Center for Entrepreneurship

FirstBuild: Innovating Product Innovation

Innovating Product Innovation

Businesses have long been told to adapt or die. But adapting isn’t enough anymore — now, they need to innovate, and do it better and faster than their competition. 

GE Appliances, a Haier company, solved this problem using FirstBuild, a global online community and makerspace/microfactory at the University of Louisville. The revolutionary paradigm gets products from mind to market faster, ensures customer demand and taps U of L's world-class students and other resources.

FirstBuild is a unique concept, held up by Brookings, citing a report from Deloitte, as  “a model for adapting to a changing competitive environment that disadvantages large firms.” Makers online help identify market needs, participate in product development and watch as their ideas become reality at the microfactory. 

Because of FirstBuild, GE Appliances has been able to generate innovative new products, while saving time and money in the research and development process. And by leveraging crowd-sourced design and funding, the company also knows that there will be consumer demand before each product launches.

The makerspace is also open to the community, allowing them access to tools and equipment to pursue their own innovations. 

 

 

Presenter

The webinar above is presented by Natarajan Venkatakrishnan, better known as Venkat, the founding Director of FirstBuild microfactory and makerspace at the University of Louisville. He has been driving force in the creation of FirstBuild and was responsible for its operations from 2014 to 2016.

 

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Blasting Off

Blasting off

Like a lot of engineers, University of Louisville student Will Johnson grew up dreaming of working on rockets. 

“All of us grew up looking at NASA for inspiration and a potential day we want to work someday,” he said. 

Johnson got to do just that in the NASA Student Launch competition, where he and other students on the River City Rocketry team took first place this year.

“It feels great to bring it back to UofL,” said student, Evan Schurr. “Definitely kind of our crowning achievement.”

The team put in months of work, culminating in a launch at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center near Huntsville, Alabama. They won a $5,000 cash prize by beating more than 50 other student teams from across the U.S.

Competing teams use the same process as NASA to design and test their rockets.

"A project like this, it teaches you how to actually go through the design process," Johnson said. "How to get your hands on something real and how to actually apply the things you learn in class."

That experience let the UofL team apply the skills they learned in class and pick up a few more. They used problem solving, project management and teamwork — and companies look for that kind of skill and experience when hiring.

"This is definitely one of the most important things a lot of us have done for our future career," Schurr said. "I think if you ask any of the guys… they’ll say ‘this is the single most important decision I’ve made for my career.’"

NASA launched the rocket competition to further development of technologies needed for future space exploration, with the overaching goal of sending humans to Mars by the 2030s. 

UofL teams have finished in the top three for four years in a row, and have earned 10 awards, including Best Vehicle Design, Safety Award, Project Award and more since 2011. 

 

This is definitely one of the most important things a lot of us have done for our future career. I think if you ask any of the guys… they’ll say ‘this is the single most important decision I’ve made for my career.’
— Evan Schurr, UofL student
It’s huge. I mean, companies are looking exactly for experience like this during your college career. So, it does huge wonders.
— Will Johnson, UofL student

Data-Driven Development

Data-Driving Economic Development

Louisville has lots of data — data that could help leaders make decisions, draw new businesses and supercharge the local economy. 

But where to put all of that data? And how to make sense of it? To solve this problem, Louisville Metro Government enlisted the University of Louisville’s College of Business. 

Students in the MBA program worked with Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development engine, to develop a system that would store the data and allow for easy access and analysis. 

“In order for us to really undertake that analysis, we need a place to put it,” said economic development director, Scott Herrmann.

Having the data centrally located will help his office identify trends and correlations, such as whether average incomes are going up or down, and how that compares to employment.

“Data is king,” said Tony Dougherty, an MBA student who worked on the project. “With economic development especially, you need data just to understand what’s going on, and you can use that and turn it into information to hopefully move your business forward.”

Herrman said the students were smart, driven and thorough. They were responsive to the challenges Louisville Forward was facing, and found solutions. 

“It was a wonderful experience,” he said. “And really, we couldn’t be happier with the product that they ended up delivering to us.” 

And by working on a real-world project, Dougherty said the students gained hands-on experience that will benefit both their education and future careers. 

“Working with Louisville Forward has been really good for me,” he said. “It’s been great to put that academic knowledge we’ve gotten over the past two years from my MBA, and just put it in industry and get a chance to see how the real world works outside of a classroom.” 

 

It was a wonderful experience...And really, we couldn’t be happier with the product that they ended up delivering to us.
— Scott Herrmann, Louisville Metro's director of economic development
Working with Louisville Forward has been really good for me...It’s been great to put that academic knowledge we’ve gotten over the past two years from my MBA, and just put it in industry and get a chance to see how the real world works outside of a classroom.
— Tony Dougherty, UofL MBA student

'A Big Milestone'

ADVANCED ENERGY MATERIALS

Advanced Energy Materials LLC, a Louisville-based manufacturer, has opened a new production facility at the University of Louisville. 

“It’s a big milestone for our company, moving from R&D to production and commercial sales,” said Vasanthi Sunkara, AEM’s president and CEO, at a ribbon cutting event June 2. “Today’s event commemorates …the company’s direction toward becoming a full-fledged commercial venture.” 

AEM makes nano-materials for catalysts used in chemical processing and oil refining. Its new facility is in about 20,000 square feet at 311 E. Lee Street, just north of the Belknap Campus. 

Interim UofL President Greg Postel said the move was another success story from the university’s efforts to work with industry, including through the Institute for Product Realization (IPR).

“Our Institute for Product Realization was designed as a way for us to pursue these types of new relationships,” he said. 

The IPR connects companies with on-campus resources for problem-solving and innovation. John Gant, the IPR’s director of industry partnerships and alliances, said the university is looking for companies, like AEM, that have an “innovative twist.”  

“This is exactly the kind of company we want to work with at the University of Louisville,” he said. 

Advanced Energy Materials LLC has roots at UofL, and was born from a break-through technology developed at the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research. The company now has an exclusive license agreement with the UofL Office of Technology Transfer for a portfolio of several patents, which could be commercialized as products for customers.  

Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, chief of Louisville Forward, the city’s economic development engine, said companies leveraging those kinds of UofL resources can help drive the local economy. 

“This density of companies here that are using the intellectual prowess of the university to drive economic growth in our city is certainly part of our long-term growth strategy for economic prosperity in our city,” she said.

Terry Gill, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, said these partnerships, with support from the state, can also drive growth throughout Kentucky.

Gill added that successes like this can be used “as kind of a draw for other young talent in the region to the University of Louisville and really to highlight the wonderful work that’s happening there.”

AEM has nine employees with plans to hire five more by the end of the year. Total employment is projected to reach as many as 60 by 2019.

It’s a big milestone for our company, moving from R&D to production and commercial sales. Today’s event commemorates …the company’s direction toward becoming a full-fledged commercial venture.
— Vasanthi Sunkara, AEM’s president and CEO

Hotel Room... of the Future!

Hotel Room... of the Future! 

What will hotel rooms look like in the future? Maybe self-drying showers? Heated floors? Nugget ice? 

Those were a few of the suggestions University of Louisville grad students Ricky Aguiar and Carlos Gonzalez made in their top-10 entry in the Hotel Room of the Future Challenge. The contest was a collaboration between 21C Museums Hotels and FirstBuild makerspace and micro-factory at UofL.

Teams were challenged to leverage modern technology, such as voice activation and internet of things, to create a new guest experience. 

"Hotels are a space where people do have baseline expectations of what they need," said Symon Harrah, community design manager at FirstBuild. "How do you build something that when people come into this room, they're just like 'wow'?"

Harrah said 21C chose to partner with FirstBuild, backed by GE Appliances, a Haier company, because of its history developing appliance products with open innovation.

"With FirstBuild, they're kind of a disrupter in the industry," said Emily Tucker, senior director of brand services at 21C. "And we find ourselves to be a disrupter in the hospitality industry."

Tucker said the open innovation is good for 21C, which has hotel-museum hybrids in seven U.S. cities, including Louisville. Because anyone can participate, 21C gets fresh ideas from people who actually visit their hotels.  

"By getting fresh perspective, new eyeballs on things that we look at on a daily basis, that allows us to break through the tunnel vision that we may find ourselves in," she said. 

As for Aguiar and Gonzalez, they're excited for the experience. They said working with FirstBuild, both on challenges and in its making community, allows students to get their hands dirty before graduating and applying for jobs. 

"Because it's partnered with GE, as a student, you're allowed to work on products that help impact the industry," Gonzalez said. "FirstBuild's a really great addition to the University of Louisville because it allows us to prototype and build things that help further our career."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because it’s partnered with GE, as a student, you’re allowed to work on products that help impact the industry... FirstBuild’s a really great addition to the University of Louisville because it allows us to prototype and build things that help further our career.
— Carlos Gonzalez, UofL grad student and contestant
By getting fresh perspective, new eyeballs on things that we look at on a daily basis, that allows us to break through the tunnel vision that we may find ourselves in.
— Emily Tucker, senior director of brand services for 21c Museums and Hotels

'Building' a Company

'Building' a Company

Building a building is a lot like building a company — you need a solid foundation and the right raw materials to make sure the finished product lasts. 

That's what Nick McRae and Max Kommor were looking for when they launched their company, MetaConstruction Technologies LLC. McRae's background was in software development and information technology leadership, and Kommor had worked in the heavy highway industry.

"Putting the two of us together was a perfect fit," said McRae, the company's CEO. "So being able to experience that first hand and getting to build a team and a company from the ground up has been a lot of fun."

The founders met in the Entrepreneurship MBA program at the University of Louisville College of Business, which teaches students to launch their own company. 

Among other things, they learn how to make a strong business pitch and secure funding. The MetaConstruction team participated in several new venture competitions throughout the state, including UofL's own Cardinal Challenge.

"It's been huge," said Kommor, the company's COO. "It's really the confidence level. Not only have we been through this multiple times, but we've each given pitches in front of hundreds of people....being able to sit down with investors and understand best interests on both parts is really a no-brainer now."

UofL also reaches beyond campus, connecting students to mentors from the city's business community. 

"We were able to not only learn from the text book and do case studies, but actually watch real executives and business people," McRae said. "It's actually bringing the Louisville community and the MBA together, so it was a great opportunity for us." 

MetaConstruction's first product, Blacktop, is a software platform that lets asphalt contractors dispatch and locate dump trucks. Past that, McRae said they're looking at new applications and potentially making the data collected available to the public sector to inform infrastructure decisions. 

We were able to not only learn from the text book and do case studies, but actually watch real executives and business people. It’s actually bringing the Louisville community and the MBA together, so it was a great opportunity for us.
— Nick McRae, CEO of MetaConstruction Technologies and UofL Entrepreneurship MBA alum

A Sound Solution

A Sound Solution

Communication is important in any setting. But for workers in confined spaces, it can be the difference between life and death. 

That was the motivation for Cliff Johns, CEO Louisville-based TubeMaster Inc., when he invented a new early-stage product he says uses fiberoptics to make communicating in confined spaces safer and more reliable. He says current methods can be spotty, and may even introduce new danger because they contain combustible materials.

“This is a product that affects people’s lives,” Johns said. “It could save lives. That’s a whole different ball game.”

To help him launch the product, Johns enlisted an MBA team at the University of Louisville’s College of Business. They conducted market research and came up with a plan. 

“We were tasked with really taking that idea and running with it,” said Chris Taft, a recent MBA alum who worked on the TubeMaster team. “Figuring out how to bring it to market.” 

The company currently sells catalysts, but Johns said this “potentially disruptive” product would allow the company to make a big splash in the confined spaces market. 

“We want to own this space,” he said. 

Johns said MBA team worked quickly and efficiently to research and plan, and provided valuable insight from a fresh perspective. 

“When you’re nose-close to the issue, it’s hard to see what somebody can see at 10,000 feet,” he said. “So they were like the hawk, though. …They go up 10,000 feet and see the big picture, but they dove in on the prey.” 

While the project benefited the company, Taft said it also benefitted the students, who got hands-on experience working with industry. 

“I think any student at U of L should really seek out these hands-on experiences,” he said. “They give you the opportunity to take what you’ve learned and give back or make a true difference in the community.”

When you’re nose-close to the issue, it’s hard to see what somebody can see at 10,000 feet. So they were like the hawk, though. …They go up 10,000 feet and see the big picture, but they dove in on the prey.
— Cliff Johns, CEO of TubeMaster Inc.
I think any student at U of L should really seek out these hands-on experiences. They give you the opportunity to take what you’ve learned and give back or make a true difference in the community.
— Chris Taft, U of L MBA alum

 

RELATED

Google 'Design Thinking'

Google 'DESIGN THINKING'

What's design thinking? You could Google it. Or, if you're University of Louisville student Brandon Young, you could go to Google's offices and learn it from one of the company's top innovators. 

When he visited Google, Microsoft and other Silicon Valley technology companies as part of Stanford's University Innovation Fellows program, Young learned to use creative strategies for innovation and problem-solving — or, "design thinking." 

"What we did is what Google employees would do their first week," said Young, who studies engineering. "You learn how to think differently and never shoot down ideas and be more innovative."

Young's also president of the U of L Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club, of which sponsors four students to go on the trip every year. During that trip, they get to learn from industry, and get practical experience they could use for their future careers. 

"I get to see these experiences prior to when I would eventually see them when I go into the workplace," Young said. "Students should seek those opportunities out, because it basically allows them to be heads and shoulders above anyone else."

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club also has workshops, speakers and other programs to help connect students to resources that can help them learn how to be better innovators. Haley Pfeiffer, a business student and the club's Vice President, said the big focus this year has been teaching other students about design thinking. 

"The University of Louisville has many valuable resources for aspiring entrepreneurs; you just have to know where to find them," she said. "Our club really helps students get connected with these resources, and make them an asset to them becoming future entrepreneurs." 

The University of Louisville has many valuable resources for aspiring entrepreneurs; you just have to know where to find them.
— Haley Pfeiffer, business student and VP of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club at U of L

Saving Lives with Sunlight

Saving lives with sunlight

Entire neighborhoods were leveled. Everywhere, there was debris, mud and water — though, none you could drink. 

That’s what Mark Hogg, CEO and founder of WaterStep, saw when his Louisville-based nonprofit responded to a landslide in Mocoa, Columbia. The disaster had also affected the city’s infrastructure, limiting access to safe drinking water. 

“So the only thing that we saw was our bleach maker being able to make a difference,” he said.

The machine can produce medical-grade bleach on-site using a car battery as a power source. But those batteries are bulky, and need to be constantly recharged.

“So we threw this down to the students,” he said. “Instead of using a car battery, could we use a solar panel?”

WaterStep enlisted a cross-disciplinary team of engineers and designers enrolled in Dr. Thad Druffel’s design course at the University of Louisville’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering, along with business students at Bellarmine University. U of L connects campus with industry to solve problems and create experiential learning opportunities through its Institute for Product Realization. 

“We’re a team,” said Andrew Callahan, a mechanical engineering student who helped lead the product’s research and development. “We have to go at this entire project as a whole in order to be successful.” 

Under the name “Sun Bleach,” the students developed the product alongside WaterStep’s own engineering team. Other students developed marketing materials and a business plan, which made a strong showing in the statewide entrepreneurship competition, Idea State U.

“With the young people working on this with them… it was this surge of energy,” Hogg said. “So, they fueled us with some jazz.”

WaterStep now plans to incorporate the bleach maker into another project called the “Water on Wheels,” or the “W.O.W.” The tool-laden cart aims to allow people in disaster areas or developing countries to manufacture both safe drinking water and medical-grade bleach. 

But design student Emily Braun said the implications of improving access to safe, sanitary water and bleach stretch far beyond a class project or competition — it’s about saving lives. 

“I know I am just a small pawn in this big game,” she said. “And to be able to work with these people who are implementing this type of change is incredible.” 

 

 

With the young people working on this with them… it was this surge of energy. So, they fueled us with some jazz.
— Mark Hogg, founder and CEO of WaterStep
I know I am just a small pawn in this big game. And to be able to work with these people who are implementing this type of change is incredible.
— Emily Braun, design student at U of L
 

Building Better Crutches

Building Better Crutches

Crutches can help people with disabilities get around better. But even crutches have their limitations — they can be uncomfortable, bulky and difficult to maneuver. 

Those are problems students in the University of Louisville J.B. Speed School of Engineering are helping to solve. As part of their introduction to bioengineering, the freshmen had two weeks to build a better crutch, while applying the teamwork and product design skills they learned in class. 

One team solved the mobility problem by creating a crutch that can fold in half, and become a weight-supporting scooter. 

“The goal of the class is to expose students to different routes and career paths in bioengineering, from research to industry,” said professor Dr. Jill Steinbach-Rankins, who has taught the class for four years. “But at the same time, for them to gain team building skills and skills in the engineering design process.” 

Every year, students take on a different project with a big impact on human health and safety. Steinbach-Rankins said she chose crutches for this class, due to limited access for disabled people in developing countries.

“We’re first-year engineering students,” said Madeline Mitchell, who was on the student team that build the scooter-crutch hybrid. “It’s kind of nice to work on something that actually has real-world applications so early in our engineering education.”

Past classes have engineered better prosthetic hands, anti-microbial shoes to prevent injury and infection and hovercraft to deliver supplies to people stranded in remote areas. 

The project also introduces students to on-campus resources they can use to build products over the course of their career at U of L, such as the FirstBuild maker space and microfactory. And, they get to apply the skills they’re learning in class. 

“I think it’s a good thing to add to your resume,” said student Barret Adams. “But also, it builds your confidence as an engineer for whichever job you’re looking for in the future.”

I think it’s a good thing to add to your resume. But also, it builds your confidence as an engineer for whichever job you’re looking for in the future.
— Barret Adams, freshman engineering student

Student Startups and Scooters that Roar

Student Startups and Scooters that Roar

They’re entrepreneurs. They’re innovators. They huddle with their teams, talking prototypes, branding and turning their products into the next big thing.

But this isn’t Silicon Valley — it’s a capstone class at the University of Louisville’s J.B. Speed School of Engineering, taught in two sections by Dr. Sundar Atre, of the mechanical engineering department, and Dr. Thad Druffel, of the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research.

Enrolled students were put into teams, and told to build a startup company around a product. A few even took their products to competitions, including the statewide business plan competition, Idea State U.

In Druffel’s section of the course, students built companies around solutions for renewable energy and energy efficiency. They used U of L facilities, including the FirstBuild maker space and micro factory. 

One student startup — named LiON, for "lithium ion" — converted a scooter to run on a solar-powered lithium ion battery, and redesigned it to be more marketable. 

"You're actually making a potential product for people to invest in," said Barbara Williams, an engineering student on team LiON. She added that students need to be able to think like a customer, whether they're studying design, business or engineering. 

Druffel also included a handful of art and business students, plus mentors from the greater Louisville community to work alongside the engineers. He said working across disciplines prepares the students for real-world jobs that increasingly ask them to communicate with, rely on and learn from people with different backgrounds.

“There’s going to be a lot of people, and you have to learn, and learn really quick from them,” Druffel said. “We spend the first part of the course just talking about how you communicate as a team — and it’s serious.”

In Atre’s section of the course, teams were paired with graduate researchers to build companies around 3-D-printed prototypes. Among other things, teams used 3-D printing to design custom surgical tools or bone implants. You can read more about Atre’s teams here.

And for students who wanted to go further, Atre also offered to pay for the 10-week LaunchIt lean startup training program at UofL’s J.D. Nichols Campus for Innovation and Entrepreneurship downtown. Several students have taken him up on it.

“While entrepreneurship is not for everyone, I want to expose more of them to it,” he said. “Maybe some of them will take the next step.”

 

You’re actually making a potential product for people to invest in. ...It’s not just class work. You actually have actual experience.
— Barbara Williams, U of L engineering student

FirstBuild: Creative 'think space'

Innovation and Creativity at FirstBuild

There are lots of "think spaces" at the University of Louisville. Some are quiet, and others let you be creative and build things. 

For Jamal McFarland, the latter was FirstBuild, an on-campus microfactory and makerspace backed by Haier's GE Appliances. There, he learned to use 3D printers, laser cutters and water jets, between meetings on product design, marketing and sales.

"It's just innovation," he said. "You have a think space. You have a place that allows you to be creative to your maximum potential." 

While at U of L, McFarland applied for a summer job assembling ovens in the micro factory, then was offered a job teaching his fellow students to use equipment for their projects. He said the access to those tools is unusual for a university, and allows students to apply what they learn in  a classroom. 

"There's not many places like this, really, in the country," he said. "You have free access to all of this high-end equipment... You can't get that anywhere."

During his time at FirstBuild, McFarland got to help with the rollout of GE Appliances' Opal Nugget Icemaker and the Paragon Induction Cooktop. That taught him to develop products and commercialize them. 

Now that he's graduated from the U of L Speed School of Engineering, McFarland uses those skills he as an engineer for Ford Motor Co., where he helps find ways to save the company money by making the plant run as efficiently as possible. 

"Working here (at FirstBuild) was really, really good for me," he said. "I learned way more about... how to run a business while I was working here." 

 

 

It’s just innovation. You have a think space. You have a place that allows you to be creative to your maximum potential.
— Jamal McFarland, UofL grad and cost engineer for Ford Motor Co.

Powering Engineering Education

POWERING ENGINEERING EDUCATION

It's sometimes tough to see things from another's perspective. But in the work environment, that skill is critical to problem-solving and innovation. 

At the University of Louisville, engineering students learn that beginning in their first year, thanks to a new required course that puts them in multi-disciplinary teams. They work together on a series of hands-on projects, such as building a working small-scale power plant and connecting it to a computer to collect and interpret data. 

"The class is unique, in that it brings innovation and creativity into the classroom," said Dr. Brian Robinson, lead instructor for the course. "We provide a better opportunity to set students up for success down the road in their academic career and their professional career."

By working on projects, mostly in the Institute for Product Realization's Engineering Garage, students can take what they learn in the class room and apply it to the real world. This teaches them practical work skills, such as project management, critical thinking, ethics and teamwork.   

The teams are made of students from all engineering disciplines, from computer to mechanical, with each lending his or her own expertise. Bailey Florek, a freshman studying bioengineering, said working in cross-functional teams now is good practice for her future career.

"As a bioengineer, I'm going to be working with other engineers in the future to collaborate on projects," she said. "So, I think knowing what they're doing will help me to better myself, too." 

 

The class is unique, in that it brings innovation and creativity into the classroom...We provide a better opportunity to set students up for success down the road in their academic career and their professional career.
— Dr. Brian Robinson, U of L J.B. Speed School of Engineering
 

Hacking the Future of Cooking

Hacking the Future of Cooking

Home cooks of the world rejoice: the future is going to make your kitchen a whole lot better. 

That is, if the teams competing in the “Future of Cooking” hackathon have anything to say about it. They spent a weekend at the FirstBuild makerspace and micro factory at the University of Louisville building pots that stir themselves and smart cooktops that give you step-by-step recipe instructions.

That second one is Sous Chef, a project conceived by U of L students. Sarah Morris, a senior at the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, said the competition gave her a chance to gain hands-on experience. 

“We got to come up with an idea for a product, and then see it through to the end,” said Morris, whose team won for the Best Simblee Connected project. 

The hackathon let each member of the team work outside his or her own area of expertise. They worked on everything from leveraging smart sensors, to creating marketing materials. 

“The atmosphere was great, the people were awesome, and I learned a lot at the end of it,” said John Le, a junior computer engineering and computer science major. “It was a time where makers, engineers, designers, and builders come together in one area to design and innovate the future of cooking.”

Morris got involved in the hackathon through past work with FirstBuild and its backer, GE Appliances, a Haier Company. She now has a job waiting for her at the latter after she graduates. 

"U of L is so closely tied with FirstBuild, it's a great opportunity to continue your hands-on work," she said. Students can go to the space and learn to use tools and equipment they one-day will use in their jobs. 

 

 

The atmosphere was great, the people were awesome, and I learned a lot at the end of it. It was a time where makers, engineers, designers, and builders come together in one area to design and innovate the future of cooking.
— John Le, a junior computer engineering and computer science major
 

Designer Engineering

Designer Engineering

There are many tools in the artist's tool box — paint brushes, charcoal, pencils. But at the University of Louisville, students also work with water jets, 3-D printers and powerful laser cutters.

Classes at the U of L Hite Art Institute have found many ways to incorporate these tools, available on-campus in the GE Appliances-backed FirstBuild makerspace and microfactory. The printmaking studio, for example, has used the facility's equipment to cut stones used in the printing process. 

"It's pretty limitless," said Rachel Singel, an assistant professor. "It's just real... a dream to have those facilities available," she said, adding that it allows students to experiment with new tools and broaden their perspectives by working with people in other fields.

Another instructor, Power Designer-in-Residence Leslie Friesen, used FirstBuild to teach design. She brought her class there to produce 3-D elements for a project, in part, to give them experience with different equipment, materials and methods of production.

"I think it's really nice having the engineers and the designers work together," said Amber Kleitz, a student in the design class. "Having all of these different facets of my design career, even as a student, I feel that I can show how versatile I am." 

Having all of these different facets of my design career, even as a student, I feel that I can show how versatile I am.
— Amber Kleitz, senior in Communication Art & Design
 

Art and Engineering

Art Meets Engineering

Engineering is a science — there's complicated math, physics and chemistry, all coming together to shape our world. But for Taylor Beisler, it's also an art. 

She blends the two disciplines, as a product development technician at FirstBuild microfactory and maker space on the University of Louisville's Belknap campus.

"I love art and I love physics," said Beisler, who graduated from U of L with a fine arts degree. "And for me, they both come together. I take creativity, and bring these engineering ideas to life and go, 'what if we could do this?'"

Beisler uses this cross-disciplinary approach when she helps train other U of L students at FirstBuild. The micro factory allows them to see how what they learn in class can be applied. 

"This is how you actually do your book in the real world," she said. "Not everything in black and white in books works in real life, and I think that's a really beautiful part of engineering to realize."

Today, many other U of L art students are following in Beisler's footsteps. Several classes at the Hite Art Institute are finding ways to incorporate the advanced equipment at FirstBuild into their coursework, such as for painting, graphic design and printmaking. 

 

I love art and I love physics. And for me, they both come together. I take creativity, and bring these engineering ideas to life and go, ‘what if we could do this?’
— Taylor Beisler, product development technician at FirstBuild