Blog: vcp


 By Brita Belli

yale student rocket team

Two Yale students who have built a hybrid rocket engine are scaling up and readying their motor for flight. Glen Meyerowitz (ES ’14), director of YPL, an on-campus propulsion lab, and Patrick Wilczynski (CC ’16), both previous members of the Yale Undergraduate Aerospace Association, have designed and tested a small-scale hybrid rocket motor that is 100 percent reusable, and are currently testing a larger version of the motor to prepare it for flight readiness. The project has received funding from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s Venture Creation Program, which supports startups in their earliest idea stages and provides teams with expert mentorship. Others sources of support include the Yale School for Engineering and Applied Science and the Yale Center for Engineering, Innovation and Design. 

Traditionally, when a rocket is blasted into outer space nearly all of its parts are destroyed in the process—including boosters, first stage engines and second stage engines. “Billions of dollars in equipment are lost to the ocean and the atmosphere,” says Meyerowitz. He adds: “Imagine if you were driving somewhere and throwing away parts as you get there. We’re trying to reuse parts of the rocket engine and increase overall efficiency.”

Their latest hybrid rocket motor—called the M2—uses a hollowed out PVC rod (a polyethylene rod was also tested) as the solid fuel and nitrous oxide as the oxidizer. Not only is it more efficient and reusable, but Meyerowitz says their motor design is safer as well. The team tested their motor in September at Yale’s West Campus Rocket Facility. They placed the motor in a stand, surrounded by concrete blocks, sent fuel in and watched as it ignited and flames shot out leaving a trail of black smoke. They captured the excitement in a series of videos on YouTube.

“In the upcoming weeks and months, I am hoping to perform a test of the system with a completely self-contained rocket motor,” Meyerowitz says. “This means the nitrous oxide will first fill a tank designed and built by us. This system will simulate actual performance of the motor, and a successful test here will indicate that the system is flight ready. I am also looking to expand the capabilities of the static test stand so that it can measure more variables than we are currently measuring.” 

If he can help facilitate space travel for more people, Meyerowitz is on board. “I would be extremely interested in traveling into space,” he says.

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By Cynthia Hua

109 design

Teens who have to wear back braces to correct the problematic spinal curves of adolescent scoliosis may soon have an easier time due to the 109 Design team, one of many teams participating in the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s Venture Creation Program (VCP).

Undergraduates Levi DeLuke, Sebastian Monzon and Ellen Su developed the Intellistrap device for better scoliosis treatment system and are now accelerating their technology with funding and guidance from the VCP. The VCP provides early-stage student startups with up to $2,500, a mentor, expert advice and dedicated space in the YEI Incubator.

The 109 Design team kicked off their venture through a fellowship with the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design at Yale this past summer. CEID sponsors the summer fellowship annually to offer student projects funding and equipment as well as mentorship.

Existing scoliosis monitoring products rely on outdated technology and are not able to provide patients and doctors with reliable, quality feedback or real-time data on the treatment’s progress. The Intellistrap device, prototypes of which were recently completed, comes as a strap that can be fitted onto existing braces.

109 design

“Our feedback device aims to improve current treatment methods by increasing the effectiveness of bracing,” DeLuke says. “Our device attaches to existing scoliosis braces and gathers data on the quality and hours of brace wear.”

Around 10% of the population suffers from adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), abnormal spinal curvature without an identifiable cause, and 1% of those cases need treatment. Children and teens between eight and 14 are most likely to be effected, particularly girls. The Intellistrap is meant to reduce the likelihood of surgery for these scoliosis patients, a condition which can be mentally and physically scarring as well as highly costly, DeLuke says.

Braces are often not worn for the time prescribed by a doctor and even when braces are worn, they are often not tight enough to be fully effective. In order to take full advantage of their treatment, patients need reliable feedback. The Intellistrap device will provide that feedback and help to reduce the progression of spine curvature, leaving the patient with a straighter spin at the end of treatment, DeLuke adds.

“We hope to improve the bracing experience for patients by allowing them to understand their treatment and to become involved in the treatment process,” he says.

The appearance and technology of the product have been designed to be unobtrusive and low-profile in order to integrate into current treatment methods seamlessly, according to Su. The device is a “natural addition” to the existing braces, Su says.

At the moment, the Intellistrap is targeted to parents and doctors to help them better understand their children and patients’ treatment, Su says. However, a priority for the company will be making the bracing experience more positive for young patients. During the design process, the team visited clinics to talk with patients and doctors and met with members of Curvy Girls, a national scoliosis support group.

“We intend to be a design company that focuses on solving meaningful problems using the design process, but we also want to bring creativity to these serious issues,” Su says.

The team is currently implementing a pilot study.

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By Cynthia Hua

Three students who had almost no technical background only four months ago may soon be launching a restaurant recommendations app after spending 10 weeks this summer in Tech Bootcamp, the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute’s immersive programming instruction course.

jordan jefferson

Tastiii — a “virtual concierge” for dining and delivery options — was developed by undergraduates April Koh, Jacob Williams and Jordan Jefferson in July as their final project for Tech Bootcamp. With Tastiii, users will be able to view local dining options based on a mood or craving such as “hot date,” “no time” or “post-workout.” The project is now being incubated through YEI's Venture Creation Program (VCP), which provides guidance and financial support to early-stage student startups.

“It’s a really simple process based on how recommendations are really done,” Jefferson says of the app. “Instead of going to Google to get options, you pick a mood or a craving.”

As a VCP team, Tastiii is given up to $2,500 to develop their prototype. The three students are also receiving access to YEI Consultants and corporate partners, and given workspace in the YEI Incubator. Koh, Jefferson and Williams meet with a VC Advisor — a select group of graduate and professional students with relevant business experience — around every other week to track their progress.

The students intend to launch the app for New Haven initially and gradually expand to other cities depending on its success. They were able to compile a long list of local restaurants during Tech Bootcamp and are currently refining an algorithm to automatically match places to mood and situations based on existing online descriptions.

Tastiii intends to offer a more aesthetic, streamlined experience than existing apps such as Yelp, Koh says. The speakers that visited during Tech Bootcamp encouraged them to aim high, she added, and the team believes they can compete with big companies by identifying areas of need.

The team spent the last three weeks of Tech Bootcamp working continuously on the project, the students said.

“I came to this program and it opened my eyes to this whole world of entrepreneurship and it was really inspiring,” Koh says. “I’m definitely really interested in entrepreneurship in the tech space and that’s what I want to pursue after I graduate.”


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