Gannon University Students Win at Erie’s Collegiate Innovation Showcase

Posted: May 19, 2014

Four Gannon University students were recipients of prizes as winners of the Erie Collegiate Innovation Showcase held at the Erie Insurance Arena.

Undergraduate and graduate students in the University's College of Engineering and Business first submitted projects to the college's dean, William L. Scheller, Ph.D., who chose two teams to compete in the showcase. Students, Jennifer Papich and Christian Kennett were chosen to present their project "Assessment of Hygienic Movements" and the second team of students, Alissa Jones and Anthony Cusati presented their project "Chimera Space Technologies."

Papich and Kennett presented the assessment of hygienic movements using a motion capture and analysis setup, in which two webcams were used to track and analyze the movement of the upper limb during feeding. The students worked to track the movement, interface the data to a musculoskeletal model and derive approximate force values for various upper limb muscles involved in the motion. "This project began as a simple laboratory experiment last semester and turned into a presentation topic for the American Society for Engineering Education. When we heard about the innovation showcase, we decided we would enter and see what came of the opportunity," said Kennett.

That opportunity brought the two students a second runner-up prize of $500 and six-months of access to the ETI building at the StartUP Incubator video production studio. The students were mentored by biomedical engineering Assistant Professor, Davide Piovesan. "I really enjoyed the experience mostly because motion analysis and/or biomechanics is my career of choice. I interned at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Erie and was involved in similar exercises; because of that experience, my intent has been to work in biomechanics ever since," said Kennett.

Jones and Cusati presented a project and business plan to collaborate with local middle schools to bring high altitude ballooning to teachers and their curriculum. The students developed a business plan for the pre-existing company Chimera Space Technologies, which was started by Cusati's brother-in-law, but struggled to obtain customers and sales.

The concept the students created was to supply the support and curriculum for the teacher to help students learn how to assemble the payload, the computer, the camera, etc. necessary to launch the project into extremely high altitudes and then analyze their findings via live footage attached to the launched project. Because the teacher may not have the knowledge of the launch, that portion, along with the retrieval, would done by the Gannon students of Chimera.

The students researched the business' target market, value proposition, business and revenue models, how to reach the teachers and the prices associated with this project and business plan, all with the intention and goal to get middle school students interested in math and science.

Jones and Cusati won second runner-up, and were awarded $500 and the Erie Technology Incubator (ETI) prize consisting of six months of incubation at ETI, a prize valued at about $2,500. Entrepreneurship instructor, Kurt Hersch mentored the students throughout the research and presentation. "It wouldn't have been possible without the coursework that was offered through Gannon; I wouldn't have had the slightest clue where to start if this was something I would have wanted to do on my own," said Jones. "The coaching from Professor Hersch - I can't thank him enough; it's phenomenal what I learned through just that one class."

The Erie Technology Incubator at Gannon University (ETI) provides technology-enabled start-ups and early-stage businesses with strategic guidance and professional mentoring to address their most significant challenges. ETI offers personal, hands-on support in an open, collaborative environment that is designed to challenge the entrepreneur's thinking, expand his or her capabilities, and prepare the business for growth. ETI joined InnovationErie as a sponsor this year and provided one winner with six (6) months of residency in its Erie offices, along with comprehensive staff support and a carefully selected professional mentor team that will be assembled based on the winner's specific needs.