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Engineers as Entrepreneurs

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Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 5:55 am | Updated: 1:31 am, Fri Mar 14, 2014.

(NewsUSA) - Engineers have given the world many of the great innovations we live by today -- Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, the Wright Brothers and Henry Ford, just to mention some household names.

But did you know what else each of those great engineers did to realize success? They founded great enterprises to support the potential of their engineering innovations.

The great American tradition of engineers-as-entrepreneurs continues today. Young, ambitious visionaries are still coming forward, stoked with ideas and the savvy to bring these ideas to life by bringing them to market. Sometimes they've conceived a previously undreamt-of way to improve some aspect of life we all face every day. Sometimes they've dreamed of making life just a little bit easier for people in far-flung or disadvantaged parts of the world. Sometimes they're figuring out how to make modern life greener and cleaner for everyone.

Ecovative Design LLC, Green Island, N.Y., is a great example of this tradition in operation today. Ecovative was founded by Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre in 2006. They met at an Inventor's Studio course at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy N.Y., where they created and eventually patented a mushroom-based insulation then called Greensulate, using agricultural waste and the growth properties of mushrooms to grow packing material that functions like traditional Styrofoam but biodegrades harmlessly.

Another leading engineer-entrepreneur today is Amos Winter, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Winter is the creator of the Leveraged Freedom Chair, an ingenious improvement on traditional wheelchair design that takes advantage of levers and easily sourced bike parts to overcome the problems that have prevented traditional wheelchairs from succeeding in the unpaved, hilly and muddy regions of the developing world.

Besides obvious brilliance, ambition and drive, what unites young visionaries like Bayer, McIntyre and Winter?

One thing they all have in common is that they received an early boost by bringing their visions and plans to the Innovation Showcase, or iShow. Sponsored by ASME, the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, the iShow is a competition for early-career engineer-entrepreneurs from all over the world. Bayer, McIntyre and Winter are not just brilliant -- they're iShow Winners.

For more information, visit www.asme.org.

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