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First-year engineering students present design at EIGERlab competition, bring back top prize

November 30, 2012
Sean Dwyer

Sean Dwyer

One year ago, as Sean Dwyer celebrated a few days off from his NIU classes during the Thanksgiving holiday, the first-year student in the College of Engineering & Engineering Technology got to work.

It wasn’t finishing the leftover turkey, braving the Black Friday chaos or  watching as much football as humanly possible.

It was the Ink Again.

Dwyer and all first-year engineering students are required to take UEET 101, where they are introduced to CEET’s commitment to innovation and hands-on experience.

Students learn about engineering professions, what they can expect as an engineering student as well as how to succeed in the engineering program. At the end of the semester, students form teams and work together to develop a concept for a new product or system that could make the world a better place.

Because these students have yet to learn the math and physics needed to actually build an idea, they end the semester by presenting the idea to their faculty, peers and CEET staff.

Last year, one team of first-year students decided to take their idea one step further.

For their UEET 101 design, Dwyer, Nikki Aurelio, Tim Brennan and Steve Lanza created the Ink Again. The gadget’s intended purpose: to rejuvenate dry erase markers by bringing hidden ink to the tip of the marker.

While they were not asked to produce an actual Ink Again for their class, Dwyer decided to test out their innovation and took their design to the next level. “I was enthused by this great project idea and really wanted to see how well it would work. Over Thanksgiving break I built the prototype of the Ink Again,” he said.

EIGERlab logoDwyer took the Ink Again to the EIGERlab Fast Pitch Competition in Rockford. The competition asked that only one person pitch the design, so Dwyer took on the task of presenting the Ink Again last June at NIU-Rockford.

At the competition, participants gave their “elevator pitch” about their design to the judges. After making it to the finals, Dwyer took first place and split the $500 cash prize with Lanza, who helped him work the booth at the competition.

“From the beginning of this project I have been nothing but enthused. After receiving positive feedback from our presentation during the opening ceremony of last fall/winter’s senior design day, I decided that I wanted to gain as much from this project as I could,” Dwyer said.

“Whether or not I was going to move forward with the Ink Again was unquestionable. The Ink Again needed exposure and I needed advice. EIGERlab’s Fast Pitch competition provided me a prime opportunity to fulfill my needs.”

The UEET program was recently incorporated into the curriculum to instill a sense of innovation in engineering students as soon as they set foot on campus.

“We encourage them to be entrepreneurs and to come up with innovative ideas. We’ve been doing it for two semesters now, and the outcome has been great,” Associate Dean Omar Ghrayeb said. “This encourages students to become entrepreneurs at inception. As they go through the engineering program, they will learn the technical knowledge to make those designs a reality.”