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Product Innovations Showcase at WNEU Highlights Student Inventors

SPRINGFIELD — On Dec. 7, the Western New England University Colleges of Business and Engineering held the first student Product Innovations Showcase event in Rivers Memorial Hall.

It was the culmination of a co-curricular course established several years ago and funded in part by a grant from the VentureWell. Entrepreneurial teams of engineering and marketing students collaborate to turn ideas into marketable products that occasionally receive patents. The engineers develop a limited functionality prototype, and the business students develop a business plan.

The first Showcase event featured 17 product innovations from the co-curricular course and six products from a freshman engineering class. Visitors to the event were given play money and asked to invest it in the products they thought had the best chance of being commercialized.

The top investments went to the following products: Lectroblocks, a configurable power-strip system to meet a variety of electronic needs; SureHome, a secure outdoor-storage lockbox for home deliveries by carriers; Trojet, an innovative new endoscopic surgical tool; and the Smartseat, a revolutionary self-cleaning toilet-seat attachment. The number-one freshman project was Frore Case, a unique cooling cover for high-use mobile phones that overheat.

The keynote speaker for the Showcase was Kenneth Morse, chairman and CEO of Entrepreneurship Ventures Inc. A serial entrepreneur and angel investor, he co-founded six tech startups, including 3Com, with MIT friends and classmates, all of which went global. He also served as the founding managing director of the MIT Entrepreneurship Center. Stanley Kowalski III, CEO of FloDesign Sonics, helped facilitate the Showcase program.

The faculty members teaching the entrepreneurship and innovation courses include Assistant Professor of Marketing Mary Schoonmaker, Associate Professors of Mechanical Engineering Glenn Vallee and Richard Mindek, and Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Robert Gettens.

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