University of Pittsburgh
March 18, 2002

Pitt Engineering Students Invited to "March Madness for the Mind"

Contact:  412-624-4147

March 19, 2002

"Jackheat" Project Selected for Nation's Top Student Inventors Showcase

Third Year Out of Past Four for Pitt Student "E-teams" at Event

PITTSBURGH—Jackheat—a heated jacket created by a student team from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Engineering—was one of 19 inventions selected for "March Madness for the Mind," a student inventors' showcase sponsored by the Smithsonian Institutions' Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA). Jackheat and the other 18 student projects from colleges and universities across the country were exhibited on March 14 at the National Museum of American History's Behring Center.

This year's team—Dave Chekan and Matt Hoopes, senior computer engineering students, and Vicky MacLaren, who recently graduated with a degree in marketing from the College of Business and Administration—invented the fashionable heated jacket. Faculty advisors to the project are Laura Schaefer, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Mike Lovell, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of Pitt's Swanson Center for Product Innovation.

The jacket features a stylish, interchangeable outer shell with a core liner containing the heating elements and rechargeable batteries. Five heating pads—one at each wrist, just below each armpit, and at the back of the neck—are connected to a temperature control unit with an on/off switch and settings for high and low heat.

"These students are transforming the future with their innovations," said Phil Weilerstein, executive director of the NCIIA. "The act of turning a creative idea into an innovative and viable product—while still in school—represents a new movement in education that gives students the opportunity to build the skills they need to be successful in a dynamic, collaborative workplace."

Last year, two University of Pittsburgh projects were showcased in the event. One was a "keyless key" that opened doors using radio waves. More sophisticated than a garage door opener, the microchip on the keyless key could contain personal information that would allow the users higher security and restrict access. Another project developed a battery-free remote controller for audio/visual equipment. The remote gets its power from ambient electronic waves, in a process called energy harvesting.

Two years ago, two Pitt projects made it to the exhibition as well, including a simulator to test ankle joint replacement components and the Active Remote Sensor, a device that provides power and eliminates the need for bulky wires or batteries for EKG and other medical applications or for electronic inventory control.

Students representing colleges and universities in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee, Maryland, California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Massachusetts participated in this year's event. In addition to Jackheat, other projects include:

• University of Virginia: a credit card-size, automatic epinephrine injecting system that people threatened by severe allergies from bee stings and other allergens can easily carry in their wallets when they leave home;

• Swarthmore College: a state-of-the-art, energy efficient home heating system that reduces electric power consumption by 50 percent;

• University of Maryland: an inexpensive watch that tells wearers how much sun exposure they have received;

• Lehigh University: a simple transmitter and receiver system that can locate up to five frequently misplaced household items—cell phones, keys, wallets, etc.—with the push of a button;

• Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology: a digital lap counter and timer for swimmers that displays information underwater at the end of a swimming pool lane. The swimmer can focus on his or her strokes, not on counting laps; and

• Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo: a flexible bolt that allows builders easily to connect two parts that are out of alignment.

The NCIIA is an initiative of the Lemelson Foundation, a private philanthropy established by one of the country's most prolific inventors, Jerome Lemelson, and his family, supporting faculty and students who believe that invention and innovation are critical to American higher education. The NCIIA provides grant support to colleges around the country for the creation of student invention teams (called E-Teams for excellence and entrepreneurship), courses, projects, networking opportunities and resources for faculty and student innovators. The NCIIA funds E-Teams whose work is likely to result in the licensing of new products or technologies, or the start up of entrepreneurial ventures. There are 223 colleges and universities with membership in the NCIIA.

The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation is in the Smithsonian's American History Museum and is dedicated to exploring invention in history and encouraging invention and creativity in young people. The NCIIA and the Lemelson Center are programs of the Lemelson Foundation.