Showcasing the next great invention


Eleven student/faculty teams demonstrated how new federal funding has prepared them to take their innovations to market. The teams showcased their entrepreneurial skills and innovations — thanks to National Science Foundation (NSF) support — on Nov. 22 to faculty members and established area entrepreneurs.

These teams are the first to benefit from The University of Akron being named an Innovation Corps (I-Corps) Site by the NSF — one of only three in the country.

University of Akron

Brian Davis, UA chair and professor of biomedical engineering, Valentina Goutorova of 5iTech; biomedical engineering student Christina Webber and law student Dann Bruno presented a prosthetic socket cooling system for prosthetic limbs, which would allow wearers to live more active lifestyles.

Speed to market

I-Corps teaches scientists how to quickly turn innovative research into a commercially viable product that will be successful in the marketplace.  The NSF funding—each team was provided $2,500 to start—pairs the student/faculty team with a business mentor from outside the University to test the marketability of their innovation before seeking additional investment for growth.

Over the last month, the teams have focused on market research, an analysis of competitive products/services, and in-person meetings with potential customers to assess their needs. 

At the showcase, the teams translated the complex science and engineering behind their innovations into a marketable product description to provide evidence for additional investment to bring their product/services to market.

Inventing the future

So what are some of these next great inventions?

  • A cooling system for prosthetic limbs that allows amputees to be more active and more comfortable, avoiding skin irritation common with prostheses.
  • A sensor compound that allows civil engineers to see the full range of mechanical stress and strain experienced by buildings, bridges and aircrafts.
  • Software design that allows orthopedic surgeons to graft a more accurately sized ligament into a knee, improving surgical outcomes.
  • A device that measures markers in urine to track the progression of osteoporosis.
  • A digital amplifier that dramatically lowers the cost of high-performance electrostatic loudspeakers.

In all, the UA I-Corps Site saw 13 teams with a combined total of more than 60 academic and entrepreneurial leads, mentors, and business and law students from UA, Kent State University and the local community. The teams collectively spent 500 hours on their inventions, including meetings and interviews with customer segment representatives.

University of Akron

UA students Dann Bruno and Christina Webber make their final I-Corps Site presentation on a prosthetic socket cooling system that allows amputees to be more active and comfortable and to avoid skin irritation common with prostheses.

George R. Newkome, vice president for research and dean of the graduate school, congratulated the teams, particularly on their exchanges of ideas and for looking outward for ideas and inspiration. He also encouraged them to stay abreast of technology.

“There are things around you every day that relate to technology,” he says. “Technology is changing so quickly, if you drag your feet, it will pass you by.” 

Media contact: Eileen Korey, 330-972-8589 or