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Dental implant, aphasia therapy and marine coating system win NDSU’s Innovation Challenge ’12

Bison Microventure, a team of 15 NDSU students, won first place and $5,000 for their novel dental implant in the Innovation Challenge ’12 on Jan. 26. The second-place project was aphasia therapy for professionals, and the third-place project was a coating system for ship hulls. 

Twenty-one teams participated in the competition, a new component of the third annual Innovation Week held by NDSU and the NDSU Research and Technology Park. David Wells, professor in industrial manufacturing engineering and member of the Innovation Week steering committee, was blown away by the number and variety of entries. “We expected eight teams to enter and would have been delighted with 10,” he said. “It was really a wonderful experience to be around youngsters with innovative ideas.”

“The success of the first Innovation Challenge ’12 competition is due to the very bright and talented NDSU students who participated in the event,” said Tony Grindberg, executive director of the NDSU Research and Technology Park. “The caliber of projects was outstanding and truly reflects the first-class research and innovative work being done on campus and in the park.”

First place: Dental implant
Bison Microventure is developing a porous ceramic dental implant for people who cannot use traditional titanium implants. Because the implant is made from a type of inexpensive ceramic that has bone-like properties, it has the potential to reduce rejection rates, help patients heal faster, be more cost-effective and change using titanium as the standard material in dental implants and other biomedical devices. 

“With this funding, we can pump out more data and research to take this project to the next level,” said team captain Erica Pfarr, a senior biochemistry and molecular biology major from Rochester, Minn. “The next step will be writing a grant proposal to make this idea into an option for those seeking a dental implant.”

The team includes student engineers who build the implants and student scientists who grow cells on the implants and analyze that growth. The formal structure for their work is through a one-credit elective course that undergraduates can take as many times as they want, said Wells, who is a mentor for the team. The course objectives are to develop skills in translating research into commercial products or processes, creating and maintaining intellectual property and applying micro-technologies to medical and dental devices. 

Over the past five years, the idea for the dental implant has evolved as students build on the research of their predecessors in the class and test new hypotheses. Other Bison Microventure mentors are John Bagu, director of the organic spectroscopy laboratory; Lewis Dailey, manufacturing technician in industrial and manufacturing engineering; Tao Wang, director of the core biology facility; and Conrado Aparicio, associate professor in the school of dentistry at the University of Minnesota.

Other students working on the dental implant are:
•    Junior Derek Holt, a manufacturing engineering major from Fargo
•    Senior Cody Mathison, a manufacturing engineering major from Mora, Minn.
•    Junior Deanna Webster, a zoology major from Penn., N.D.
•    Sophomore Danielle Stromme, a zoology major from Crary, N.D.
•    Senior Tyler Johnson, a biology major from Bismarck, N.D.
•    Sophomore Shelby Schields, a zoology major from Beulah, N.D.
•    Junior David Sundquist, a mechanical engineering major from Cottage Grove, Minn.
•    Sophomore Andrew Dalman, a mechanical engineering major from Minneapolis
•    Sophomore Lucas Budzien, a mechanical engineering major from Blaine, Minn.
•    Senior Austin Vetter, a zoology major from Minot, N.D.
•    Senior Brittany Korynta, a horticulture major from Gilby, N.D.
•    Sophomore Joel Hedlof, a mechanical engineering major from Willmar, Minn.
•    Senior Brittany Gagner, a zoology major from Fergus Falls, Minn.
•    Senior Derek Hiam, a zoology major from Lisbon, N.D.

Second place: Aphasia therapy for professionals

The Aphasia Therapy team, which includes senior Trisha McDonald, a university studies major from West Fargo, N.D., and senior Amanda Beller, a psychology major from Morganville, N.J., won second place and $2,500. 

McDonald and Beller’s project is at-home therapy for professionals who have aphasia, an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process language. Their research revealed that at-home therapy products on the market now are geared for a broad range of ages and aphasia-related language challenges. 

Their therapy includes a collection of software that uses word recall and association, audiovisual matching and complex sentence patterns to help rehabilitate people who have lost complex language skills. The idea is to help professionals who have aphasia return to work.

McDonald’s inspiration came from personal experience and from following former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery from a gunshot wound to the head. When McDonald was a freshman, she had a series of strokes because of an undiagnosed heart problem. “Initially, I lost my ability to speak and to put sentences together,” she said. “It was embarrassing for me to talk to new people, and it took a while for me to regain my vocabulary.” She still has trouble with complex or technical sentences and with naming things.

McDonald, who is interested in business, approached Beller, who plans to study neurology in graduate school, about partnering with her. “I knew what happened to her, but I didn’t know she was so passionate about finding new therapy,” Beller said. “Her passion definitely drove us.” 

To solidify their idea, they reviewed case studies, researched recovery times and interviewed a neurologist, speech pathologists and a computer programmer. The next step is to develop a prototype. “We could actually make a really big difference in the world,” McDonald said. “We could rehabilitate people, so they can go back to work.”

Their team adviser was Paul Brown, senior lecturer in the management and marketing department.

Third place: Coating system for ship hulls

Rajan Bodkhe and Chavanin Siripirom, graduate students in coatings and polymeric materials, won third place and $1,000 for a coating system to prevent the growth of marine organisms on ship hulls. This growth, known as biofouling, causes speed reduction, loss of maneuverability, as well as increased fuel consumption, pollution, dry-docking frequency and voyage time. 

“I wanted to make a novel polymer architecture with precise control over design parameters and chemical functionality to design marine coatings,” Bodkhe said. “To address all these parameters in one single polymer architecture was not easy. Another challenge was the limited literature regarding the synthesis of this particular polymer architecture. I tried several different approaches until I succeeded.”

The coating system was also one of six final entries for an American Chemical Society fall 2011 graduate competition where Bodkhe presented the work. Bodkhe is from Amravati, India, and Siripirom is from Bangkok, Thailand. Their team adviser was Dean Webster, chair of the coatings and polymeric materials department.

Innovation Challenge judges

Judges were Tom Walter of Tasty Catering, John Cosgriff of Invest America, Rick Kasper of MinnDak Farmers Cooperative, Carol Schlossman of Insight to Action, Arjan Giaya of Triton Systems, Andrew Christensen of Arthur Ventures, Joe Sandin of OnSharp and Bob Allen of Appareo Systems.

“Innovation Week overall and the Innovation Challenge ’12 competition wouldn’t be possible without the generous donation of time and talent from our presenters and judges,” said Brenda Wyland, associate director of the NDSU Research and Technology Park. “This community is very fortunate to have passionate and dedicated individuals willing to give back to our future business leaders and owners of tomorrow.”


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Last Updated: Thursday, August 08, 2013 8:33:23 AM