University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Bridge Mentorship Program for Advanced Student Companies at UMass Amherst

University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2010 - $29,000

The NCIIA-funded UMass Amherst Entrepreneurship Initiative (UMassEI), a one-credit course, has greatly increased student participation in entrepreneurship on University of Massachusetts Amherst campus, having grown from five students in 2007 to over 200 from thirty majors running over 100 active student companies. While UMass faculty are currently formalizing a program that connects the most advanced of these student companies to outside mentors, increasing their chances for success, there remains a large gap between the mature teams and the teams in need of support. Many student companies lack the maturity or level of development to take advantage of the mentorship program after completing the one-credit UMassEI class.

This grant will help bridge the gap and connect more students more effectively to outside programs and mentors. Faculty will develop a “bridge program” for students, with the objective of providing early student companies with the knowledge and support they need to cross the gap between completing the introductory course and reaping maximum benefit from outside advisors. The program will consist of three elements: independent studies with faculty across campus who will mentor student innovation projects; bi-weekly seminars for all student proto-companies in the program to build peer-mentoring networks (a result of feedback from mentors who said students were not “ready” to talk with them yet), share successes, answer questions and make them accountable to the group; and weekly networking sessions with external entrepreneurs.

Cool tech file: Monitoring the 'health' of structures

When structures fail, the results can be catastrophic. Condition Engineering, a 2007 NCIIA E-Team grantee, designs systems that monitor the integrity of earthen infrastructure such as dams and levees, and the performance of air and space vehicles.

The technology: The SensorRope snakes down inside earthern structures and monitors the conditions of the structure, transmitting an early failure warning signal should the structural conditions be deemed dangerous. Condition Engineering is also developing a fiber optic sensing system for monitoring the temperature and structural integrity of high-temperature materials, such as a space vehicle's thermal protection shield.

Capstone Course in Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UMass Amherst

University of Massachusetts - Amherst, 2007 - $25,000

This grant supports the development of a capstone course in innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Faculty will develop a three-to-six credit capstone course that meets the requirements of the Commonwealth College honors program and the Engineering Management Minor. The new course will build on an earlier course developed with NCIIA funding, but will focus more on real-life interactions with local entrepreneurs in a workshop setting. Further, the grant will help establish zero-credit club courses.

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