Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

May-June-July 2016

OSU-Tulsa Researchers Awarded Grant to Develop Stronger Carbon-Fiber Reinforced Composites

A team of Oklahoma State University students has been awarded a $20,000 grant to help prepare the development of a tougher, more reliable carbon-fiber reinforced composite for commercialization.

The team is composed of undergraduate student Kevin Keith and post-doctoral fellow Kunal Mishra from the School of Materials Science and Engineering, graduate student Haley Marie Kurtz from the School of Entrepreneurship and Nathanial Evans, graduate research assistant at Helmerich Research Center.

The group is one of seven university teams nationwide selected to receive the grant from VentureWell, a nonprofit organization that supports science and technology innovators and entrepreneurs.

The students developed a simple and affordable way to toughen carbon fiber composites used in aerospace and automobile applications. Current materials are highly sensitive to low velocity and localized damage that can result in cracks between layers of the composite. The students developed nanofillers that can easily be incorporated into existing manufacturing processes to increase the stability and reliability of carbon fiber composites.

“The OSU material sciences and engineering program provides students the opportunity to develop materials and technologies through hands-on research and to follow through to ensure their project reaches its full commercial potential,” said Ranji Vaidyanathan, Ph.D., Varnadow Chair, OSU-Tulsa professor of materials science and engineering and principal investigator for the research project. “Our students will be a step ahead when it comes to understanding the process of moving technologies out of the lab and classroom into the marketplace.”

VentureWell runs a three-stage E-Team Grant Program that provides funding, experiential workshops, veteran coaching and investment-readiness training to help student teams move their projects into the commercial market.

The OSU team successfully made it through the first stage of the program, which provides $5,000 to develop prototypes and attend a workshop on presenting their innovation for the marketplace. The $20,000 grant is part of the program’s second stage and includes an invitation to a workshop in Cambridge, Mass., that will guide them on developing business model hypotheses and plans to test them.

ASPIRE is stage three of the program that prepares high-potential teams for investment and critical partnerships.

“In 2016, we are continuing our legacy as a leader in supporting science- and technology-based entrepreneurship in higher education,” said Phil Weilerstein, president of VentureWell. “We’ve given grants to more than 500 student teams over 20 years and more than half of the ventures they founded are still in business today, operating in over 50 countries. We look forward to helping the 2016 E-Team grantees achieve similar success through our seed funding and series of experiential workshops.”

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