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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture Business Plan Competition gives Taste of Real World

At the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture we are constantly on the lookout for new and interesting ways for our students to learn. One such way is through participation in an annual Business Plan Competition.

The WSU College of Business hosted its annual competition in Nov. 2007 which included 16 student teams from the Pullman and Tri-Cities campuses, represented in four student leagues, with a total of 50 students participating.

“I believe for engineers to be able to present ideas in front of business people is very important,” said Denny Davis, professor of Bioengineering and faculty advisor for the program. “They need to be able to speak the language in their future careers.”

Of the four leagues, two first place finishers came from the College ofEngineering and Architecture: WaterCycle and BioAccoustics Inc.

Representing the Parchini League, BioAccoustics Inc., won for their Lab R.A.T. (Rodent Acoustic Tester), which uses microphones to pick up ultrasonic emissions from rats that detect their psychological well-being. The idea is that happy rats are more accurate in test results, and by using the Lab R.A.T, researchers can all but eliminate erroneous data presented when using unhappy rats. This technology also enable researchers to ensure the well-being of laboratory rats and avoid otherwise unnoticed suffering of animals. Team members are: Samuel Bechara (Bioengineering), King Lun Li (Bioengineering), Jennifer Leoppke (Entrepreneurship, and Allen Peloquin (Computer Science).

“In a larger sense, they’re not just developing a device, they’re developing something that is very versatile and user friendly that is very marketable,” saidDavis. “This (product) could be a real benefit – ensuring the well-being of animals…not just rats, but house pets as well.”

Representing the Markin League, WaterCycle took first place honors for their non-profit organization aimed at improving irrigation methods in Malawi, Africa. Team members, Cory Cole (Bioengineering), Brendan Dallas (Mechanical Engineering), Angel Hall (Bioengineering), and Kyle Hart (Entrepreneurship) presented a prototype of a bicycle-powered irrigation system that transfers energy from pedaling the bike into flow of water going through pipes used to irrigate village farming plots. At present, the bicycle pump can deliver enough water to irrigate half an acre of farmland.

In addition to the class and shop work the students have put into the project, they will travel to Malawi in March with Howard Davis. In Malawi their aim will be to improve their design and evaluate its implementation. One roadblock students must address however is the cost of producing a bicycle pump in one of the world’s poorest nations. They must make their pump competitive with currently available treadle pumps.

Despite the obstacles facing the students, Trent Bunderson, director for East and South Africa WSU, believes the program is entirely beneficial. “We always welcome students who can contribute practical ideas to address the difficult challenges in Africa,” he said. “Structured visits to Malawi offer an opportunity to create awareness in the developed world about this need, which in turn can help generate interest, investment and support to make change a reality.”

Davis is always on the lookout for new project ideas and alumni involvement is welcome. If you are an alumnus and have a project idea and would like to coach a student team, please contact Dr. Denny Davis:

“I think you would get a lot of satisfaction from helping these students,” saidDavis. “They are really impressive.”