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University of Dayton : Innovation + Job News

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UD students take wing in new venture capital group

Flyer Angels may sound like a World War II-era bomber squadron . . . It isn't.

It is the name of a venture investment group managed by a group of University of Dayton undergraduates and endowed by an alumnus.

The new program, launched with a $1-million gift from 1969 alumnus Ron McDaniel, has helped to make the school's entrepreneurship program one of the best in the country. As part of Flyer Angels, about 200 students receive hands-on experience in due diligence, in finding and securing sources of capital, and even decide which business plans to bankroll and which to walk away from.

In March, Flyer Angels made its first investment: Commuter Advertising, winner of the school's 2010 Business Plan Competition.  Commuter Advertising is a high-tech startup that sells ads on board public transportation. The company received $35,000 from the university, after students vetted its business plan. 

"So far we've made six investments, most of them through our collaboration with Ohio TechAngels," says Dean McFarlin, chairman of the university's management and marketing department. "We're looking at a number of companies for possible investment right now. Some of them are through our own sources, and others through our collaboration with OTA." 

McFarlin says all of the companies under consideration are technology-based.

"The main motivation for us is education. Making money and getting a great return is secondary. There are very few undergrad students in the country who can say they were doing private investing or angel-equity types of deals, and making decisions and doing due diligence as undergraduates."

Source: Dean McFarlin, University of Dayton
Writer: Patrick G. Mahoney

GE Aviation announces UD site for new research facility

The University of Dayton is getting a new tenant.

GE Aviation announced Nov. 22 that it had chosen a site on River Park Drive for its new Electrical Power Integrated Systems Research and Development Center (EPISCENTER). The $51-million, 115,000-sq.-ft facility is expected to be operational by late 2012 and attract an initial 10-15 jobs.

The facility will make GE Aviation an initial launch partner of the Ohio Hub of Innovation and Opportunity for Aerospace, assigned to the Dayton region in September 2009 by Gov. Ted Strickland.

Jennifer Villarreal, a company spokeswoman, says proximity to the University of Dayton Research Institute and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base -- as well as the Dayton region's designation an aerospace hub -- all contributed to GE Aviation's decision to locate the center on the UD campus. She says that in addition to benefiting the region's and state's economy, EPICSENTER will help GE Aviation attract new talent.

"It's an excellent catalyst for growth with new program and contracts," says Villarreal. "It's a great pipeline for talent from the University of Dayton as far as researchers, technologists, engineers and others, so that's really key to us as far as development and advancing electric power for all kinds of vehicles."

The facility will sit on eight acres and will focus on a number of markets, including electrical power starter/generation, conversion, distribution and load technologies for commercial and military aerospace applications. UD will partner with the CityWide Development Corp. to build the facility, whose construction should be completed by the third quarter of 2012. The Ohio Third Frontier has chipped in with a capital grant of up to $7.6 million.

Villarreal says it's difficult to predict job growth over time, but that some have estimated 100 to 200 "depending on future contracts and programs."

Source: Jennifer Villarreal, GE Aviation
Writer: Gene Monteith

Brain Rack matches creative student minds with companies seeking answers

There's no doubt today's economy is challenging, and there's no guarantee that a plum job (or any job for that matter) will be awaiting college grads.

A trio of University of Dayton students knows just how hard it can be to find a great job opportunity. So they've launched a new company, Brain Rack, that matches creative students with companies through the emerging crowd sourcing problem solving model.

Two UD grads and a one senior launched BrainRack this spring. Here's how it works: A company or organization poses a challenge, basically a question seeking an innovative answer, to college students. Students submit answers to the question for company review. The company awards a cash prize to the best, and then has the opportunity to interview these students for a job. The challenges also are open to recent college grads.

"It's a way to link interesting companies with creative students," said Brain Rack co-founder Senay Semere. "What we are doing is giving a voice to students who may not be able to be heard by companies. This is also a great way for companies to market themselves and get prospective employees at an early age."

This year BrainRack won second place in the University of Dayton's Business Plan Competition and $10,000. It also took second place honors in the Midwest pool at the winner-takes all Harvard Business School Alumni New Venture Competition.

BrainRack also has a big social media component. Students can easily share the sites, and challenges by Facebook and Twitter. BrainRack is advertising on Facebook and spreading the word about the site via several social media sites.

"In addition to that we are working on a grass roots campaign with student reps on 18 campuses (across the U.S. and Europe) who are physically promoting us," said Matthew Veryser, who directors BrainRack's social media campaigns.

Sources: Senay Semere and Matthew Veryser, BrainRack
Writer: Feoshia Henderson

"Fuzzy fiber" poised to revolutionize composites behind Third Frontier funding

A news release calls it "a game-changing new nanomaterial that will allow composites to multitask - a wind turbine tower that can de-ice its own blades in winter, or store energy to release on a calm day, powering a grid even when its blades are not moving. Or a military vehicle whose armor can serve as a battery - powering some of the vehicle's electrical components."

Khalid Lafdi, who discovered the material, says it's not hype. He says his "fuzzy fiber" could revolutionize everything from water treatment to electronics to the manufacture of airplane parts.

Lafdi, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Dayton and group leader for carbon materials at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), says the new carbon nanomaterial surfaced eight or nine years ago while he was working on subcontract with the U.S. Air Force. But the material has drawn more attention recently because of a $3-million Ohio Third Frontier award to UDRI to fund scale-up and production.

Most carbon nanomaterials are used purely for structural purposes. They are stiff, light and strong. But they are poor conductors of heat or electricity because they are locked inside a flat sheet of resin. Sort of like slicked down hair.

But, Lafdi says, imagine if you put that gel into your hair and tousled it for a rakish, stylish Hollywood look. Voila -- more surface area, which makes for a better conductor of heat and electricity and provides other functionality that traditional carbon nanomaterials can't approach. All without lessening the structural benefits.

The Third Frontier award will help fund creation and equipment of a full-scale production facility for the hybrid fabric. The award will be matched by UDRI and Ohio collaborators Goodrich and Owens Corning -- potential end users of the material -- and Renegade Materials -- which intends to commercialize the product.

Source, Khalid Lafdi, UDRI
Writer: Gene Monteith

Move into composites powers growth of Brooklyn Heights' North Coast companies

Rich Petrovich describes his company's transformation from an old-school tooling company to a high-flyer in Ohio's advanced materials industry as "quite a paradigm shift for us."

Petrovich is president and chief executive officer of Brooklyn Heights-based North Coast Tool & Mold, founded in 1976, and North Coast Composites, launched in 2003. He says North Coast got involved in high-performance composites about 20 years ago "but as a tool maker."

North Coast took a giant step forward seven years ago when it moved into production of composite parts. North Coast Composites, which manufactures carbon, Kevlar and fiberglass parts, primarily for the aerospace industry, shares 65,000-square-foot building with its sister company -- and the two work hand in hand, Petrovich says.

While Petrovich can point to a number of customers, competitors and suppliers who have gone out of business during the current recession, the Companies of North Coast are growing. In the past year, the company has increased employment between 24 and 27 percent, to 33 employees. 2009 sales were up 75 percent from the year before, and Petrovich expects them to double this year over 2009.

Two years ago, North Coast was included in an Ohio Third Frontier-funded consortium managed by the University of Dayton to develop a new process to include nano-enhanced materials in a composite inlet guide vane for military aircraft. The $5-million grant, of which North Coast received a part as a subcontractor, "has supported our growth in nanocomposites," Petrovich says.

The company is currently negotiating for serial production of a rudder it helped develop for the new Gulfstream G250 aircraft and is producing low-cost, lightweight containment cases for jet engines.

Source: Rich Petrovich, North Coast Companies
Writer: Gene Monteith

Research Institute's 53 years marked by growth, unique tie to University of Dayton

In 1956, Elvis Presley released his first hit, Prince Rainier of Monaco married American actress Grace Kelley, and the Federal Highway Act was signed into law promising 41,000 miles of road improvements across the United States.

Under the radar, another milestone occurred: The University of Dayton Research Institute was born.

Starting with just 20 sponsored projects, those seeds have born tasty fruit. Today, the institute has grown to more than 1,000 sponsored projects, 400 employees and more than $96 million in research expenditures this year.

The university now ranks second among all American colleges in the amount of federal and industry-funded materials research it performs. It also ranks first in Ohio and among the top 30 universities for federally sponsored engineering R&D.

All the while, it has managed to do something no other university has done, according to UDRI Director John Leland: remain a not-for-profit arm of the university.

"There have been a lot of university research institutes," he says, "but all have spun off into separate corporate entities. The University of Dayton never spun this off," instead keeping full-time researchers on university staff, which "gives them the ability to give full-time attention to customers."

Projects can run from the simple -- analyzing why a part broke on a piece of machinery -- to complex -- analyzing how a bird brought that plane down in the Hudson River.

Besides its work helping companies develop new materials and scale them up for production, UDRI is also conducts research related to energy and the environment, aeropropulsion, structures, mechanical systems, sensors and how to improve the interface between human beings and complex systems.

Source: John Leland, UDRI
Writer: Gene Monteith

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