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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

URI engineering, business students team up in new class
to develop and market assistive devices

KINGSTON, R.I. -- October 24, 2002 -- Thanks to a $26,600 grant from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, engineering and business students at the University of Rhode Island are working in a new multidisciplinary course to develop and market assistive technology devices.

The project-based course teams students from the College of Engineering and the College of Business Administration to design, develop, patent, manufacture and market innovative devices that will help improve the quality of life for the elderly or those with disabilities. "I don’t know of another entrepreneurship class in the country that has this feature of actually designing products while simultaneously developing business plans," said URI Business Professor Robert Comerford.

The two-semester course is being taught by Comerford and Engineering Professors Musa Jouaneh and Ying Sun. According to Jouaneh, during the fall the students have been brainstorming product ideas, conducting patent and market research, and building a model of the product. A full-size prototype will be built during the spring semester and efforts will then be made to market it.

"We’re focusing on the development of assistive devices this year because URI has a strength in that area that we can build on," said Jouaneh. "It’s nice for students to work on products that are useful to those in need. And these devices aren’t of interest to big companies because the potential market is small."

Added Comerford, "the process we’re going through very closely approximates the product development process that a lot of companies are doing now. The underlying point is to show the business and engineering students the importance of getting the financial and marketing issues aired early in the product development process because it speeds up the time to market."

That point was driven home early in the class when one student team initially began work on a product for which the business students determined there was no market. Another team’s product was deemed too expensive to compete in the marketplace without engineering modifications.

Among the products the student teams are developing are a device to make it easier for the elderly to open windows and a reach mechanism for placing and retrieving items on upper shelves.

For Information: Musa Jouaneh 874-2349, Robert Comerford 874-4315

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 874-7892

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