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Student Inventors: Manu Sharma

Manu Sharma and his innovative wind turbine

Ever dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur? If so, you’re in good company – over half of U.S. millennials (ages 18 to 34) say they want to start a business or already have done so, according to a recent survey from the Kaufmann Foundation. Even more exciting is the fact that nowadays, starting a business does not necessitate leaving school, as more and more universities are striving to accommodate entrepreneurial students.

In this new eGFI blog series, we bring you four inspiring stories of undergraduate engineering students who have successfully patented their original ideas, teamed up with classmates and professors to launch businesses, and navigated the startup world, all while keeping up with their coursework.

So step aside, Bill Gates – the days of dropout turned entrepreneur may be numbered.

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Trailblazer: Ayanna Howard

Science fiction stories have served as inspiration for many a brilliant engineer, and Ayanna Howard is no exception. At age 11 she discovered the show Bionic Woman, where a badly injured athlete is given artificial limbs that grant her superhero-like abilities, and decided that she wanted to create technologically advanced prosthetics when she grew up. Howard later realized that medical school held little appeal to her, and instead opted to pursue robotics.

It’s fortunate that she did. After completely her PhD in electrical engineering at the University of Southern California, Howard went on to work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory where she led research teams to develop software for Mars-roving robots.

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Jump Shot: Panoramas Made Easy

As breathtaking as large, panoramic photos often are, the process of creating them is, to many photographers, a much less attractive prospect. While painstakingly stitching together images from a recent vacation, Technische Universität Berlin graduate Jonas Pfeil came up with a better idea: a spherical camera, called a camera-ball, that can take 360-degree panoramas in a single snap. Once the softball-sized sphere is tossed into the air, a built-in accelerometer tells when the ball has reached its zenith. Then a microcontroller triggers simultaneous action by 36 two-megapixel cellphone cameras, capturing a mosaic of images.

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Power Up on the Floor

Anyone who’s ever worked up a sweat running for the school bus knows it takes energy to move. Now, a young inventor in England has come up with a way to capture the ambient kinetic energy of footsteps–or dance moves–and use it to generate electricity.

Pavegen tiles are rubber, waterproof squares made from recycled tires, and 80 percent of their inner workings are made from recycled materials, too. When people step on them, the tiles harvest the energy and convert it to electricity.

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Best of 2011: Our Top Stories

The Most Popular, Interesting, Weird, or Just Plain Cool eGFI Blog Posts of 2011

2011 was another busy year for engineers all over the world. From inventing a device that turns air into water to exploring the oceans in a tiny submarine, scientists and engineers are exploring uncharted territory.

Like last year, we at eGFI have chronicled the most awe-inspiring innovations and stories, so in case you missed one, we present:

The Most Popular, Interesting, Weird, or Just Plain Cool eGFI Blog Posts of 2011

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