Three Missouri S&T entrepreneur teams head to EQ competition

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On April 1, 2019

Three teams of students from Missouri S&T will pitch their ideas in a “shark tank” style competition at the University of Missouri System’s Entrepreneur Quest (EQ) program this April.

The teams will compete against each other, and the top three finalists from the other UM System campuses during the EQ final rounds that will take place in conjunction with the system’s Entrepreneurial Educator Summit on Friday, April 5, in Columbia. The competition will award $15,000 for first place, $10,000 for second and $5,000 for third place.

Missouri S&T’s three teams advance to the systemwide competition after earning high finishes in several rounds of campus-level competitions and reviews.

Missouri S&T’s first place team from the campuswide March competition is “Safehouse” by Yanshuo Zhang, a junior in mechanical engineering from St. Louis, and Erik Lee, a junior in computer science from Chesterfield, Missouri. Safehouse focuses on creating semi-permanent portable shelters for displaced peoples. By using high-grade plastic polymers, the team would create shelters that are adaptable to irregular terrain and can be assembled in a few hours.

“We hope to design more models in the future to aid the homeless and those displaced by natural disasters,” says Lee. “Safehouse was founded on the belief that the development of technology should benefit all peoples, even those who seem worlds apart.”

The “CrunchPillow,” designed by Yasser Darwish, a Ph.D. student in civil engineering, under the guidance of Dr. Mohamed ElGawady, Benavides Faculty Scholar and Professor of Civil Engineering took second at S&T and will compete in Columbia in April. Darwish says the CrunchPillow aims to “make vehicle crashes as soft as a pillow.” The team developed new bumper panels that can dissipate high levels of impact energy by changing from one shape to another, so when a vehicle is involved in a crash, the panel will dissipate the impact energy protecting both cars.

“The larger scale panels could be used as an impact protection system for bridge structures on the highways and main roads,” says Darwish. “Whenever you have a collision between an over-sized truck and bridge structures, the panels will be compressed and dissipate large portion of the impact energy and protect both the truck driver and bridge structure.”

The third-place team to represent Missouri S&T is “Bionic Bowel” by Vanessa Mahan, a junior in biological sciences from Kansas City, Missouri, and Catherine Pollman, a senior in biological sciences from Waynesville, Missouri. By combining their biology studies with some ceramic engineering ideas, the two have worked to use bioactive glass as a way to potentially change the pH level in the body of a Crohn’s disease sufferer. By including the biomaterial in an oral medicine that dissolves and prevents scar tissue, the two realized that they could implant the glass in the human body via a pill to repair the damaged area.

“I’ve noticed that different disciplines in the university talking to each other more often allows them to solve problems from a different angle and consider a combined solution,” says Pollman. “This project has shown me that the research we do can directly impact the lives and wellbeing of people who are hurting. We have the ability to help them to live normal lives and enjoy the world around them, and that is such an incredible opportunity and privilege.”

EQ teams come from a wide variety of academic programs in science, technology, engineering and math and represent students at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Recruiting for 2019-20 EQ will start in mid-April.

For further information, contact Misty House, campus coordinator for both the EQ program and the National Science Foundation I-Corps Site program, at or 573-341-4541.

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On April 1, 2019. Posted in Events

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