Forget solar-powered cars or the cure for cancer. Some young alums are busy inventing everyday consumer products. Many ideas grow out of the engineering school's product design program, where master's students are required to come up with a product as part of their final thesis. A sampling:
Taking It to the Street
Like most roller-hockey players, Tony Hu, MS '92, was dissatisfied with the way typical street pucks tended to skitter, bounce and roll when they hit a bump on the pavement. But as a graduate of Stanford's product design program, he was in a position to do something about the problem. The result – after almost a year of tinkering and testing – was the ATV Hummer puck, which Hu patented and licensed to manufacturer Franklin Sports Inc. The puck, which hit stores last fall, has eight little wheels that prevent it from tipping and allow it to glide smoothly over rough surfaces.
Beachcomber, Phone Home
What to give the beach bum who has everything? How about a wetsuit for his cellular phone. Marko Babic, '89, and his Santa Monica company, GoNeo, teamed up with wetsuit maker Body Glove to create a stylish holder for portable phones and beepers. The CellSuit and BeepSuit are made from the same gas-charged neoprene used to make wetsuits. They strap easily to a bathing suit or shorts and provide cushioning to protect electronic devices, allowing you to monitor voice mail and make those all-important calls between games of beach volleyball.
Feeling is believing. That's the idea behind the new computer mouse unveiled last fall by Immersion, a Silicon Valley start-up founded in 1992 by Louis Rosenberg, '91, MS '93, PhD '94, and two other alums. Equipped with its own microprocessor, the FEELit mouse allows users to, well, feel computer-screen icons as they stretch, snap and compress. Folders seem to have extra weight as you move them, cursors fall into slider bar grooves, grainy surfaces can even feel bumpy. Said the New York Times's reviewer: "The cleverest effect was undoubtedly the silliest: When I rolled the mouse over a picture of a block of ice, the mouse feel became convincingly slippery."
Beer with Chutzpah
Think of it as the hip Manischewitz. In 1996, Jeremy Cowan, '91, decided to crack open the boutique beer market. He started by selling a couple of hundred cases of his He'Brew to friends in the Bay Area. They toasted the Jewish New Year and liked the taste. As the puns piled up, Cowan realized he had tapped into a winning concept. He launched the Shmaltz Brewing Co. in San Francisco and came out with his first commercial brew, Genesis Ale – "The Chosen Beer." The beer-making is actually done by a contract microbrewing facility in Boonville, Calif. But don't worry, it's kosher. L'Chaim.