Engineering Initiative - Bringing Entrepreneurship to Science

ecnews1The Engineering Entrepreneurship Initiative (EEI) is a new program developed to give Entrepreneurship students the opportunity to write business plans for patented intellectual property. These inventions were developed right here at the Institute within the departments of Math & Computer Science and Electrical & Computer Engineering.  VMI’s Office of Grants, Contracts and Intellectual Property, headed by Cdr. Mike Sebastino, helped to narrow the choices by identifying several pieces of intellectual property for prospective commercialization.  This program emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of the academic endeavor in joining various departments throughout Post, while potentially providing great benefit to the Institute overall in taking advantage of the new IP policy at VMI, which provides institutional support to inventors in the VMI community.


Each of three groups of ECBU cadets created a business plan based on their chosen inventions and competed in the first Annual EEI Business Plans competition held here at VMI on May 1st, 2007.  Four judges active in the early stage business funding arena came to VMI to judge the plans:  Carl Johnson, President of NBI Advisors, Inc., Richmond, VA and current president of the Richmond Venture Forum; Craig Forbes ’77, First Vice President, Alexander Key Investments, SunTrust Investment Services, Richmond, VA and current secretary of the Richmond Venture Forum; Joe Swider ’88, VP – Business Development, Spec Ops Inc., Ashland, VA, one of the Greater Richmond’s Companies to Watch in 2007; and Sue Whitsett, a former financier of early stage businesses in the Washington, DC area and a member of the ECBU Business Advisory Council. 


First place in the competition went to the business plan for ELF SD, an extra low frequency seismic detector, a first to market product that can communicate from below the surface of a mine through solid rock to the surface.  This product was developed in the ECE department, under the direction of Lt. Col. Jim Squire and Cadet Will Flathers ‘08. 

Second place was awarded to the plan for iSmartShoe, a computerized diagnostic program designed to measure pronation in a person’s gait using sensors embedded in a shoe sending signals wirelessly to the diagnostic computer.  iSmartShoe was developed in the Math and Computer Science department by Cadet Issac Ostlund ’07. 

The third place plan analyzes the Mobile Insect Killer, a robotic rover designed to kill ticks and other insects without the exposure of humans to toxic pesticides.