UNL MME student wins $1,000 prize at Quick Pitch contest
University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering graduate student Tom Frederick of Omaha was chosen as a top Four-Year College Student in the 3-2-1 Quick Pitch Competition 2012. The contest, organized by the UNL College of Business Administration Center for Entrepreneurship, was November 29 at UNL Memorial Stadium’s skyboxes.
After Frederick gave a “three-minute, no-props elevator speech, followed by two minutes of Q&A” about his idea, the judges—including local business leaders—rated his participation highest in a group of 10 student innovators.
Frederick’s winning idea aims to solve a sticky problem that’s widespread at public events: safe taping down of audiovisual equipment cords where people walk. His product concept began in volunteer work with large robotics competitions for youth, when he was often assigned “cord-wrangler” duties and thought there must be a better way.
“A roll of duct tape isn’t effective or user-friendly when the tape sticks to itself instead of the cord or floor,” Frederick said. He developed a dispenser to hold a two- or three-inch spool of generic adhesive tape, often called “duct tape” or “gaffer’s tape,” used in conference and theatrical venues to temporarily secure cords.
“When the cord is on ground, you move the tape dispenser over the cord, applying the duct tape or gaffer’s tape, and it works better,” said Frederick. Adapting hands-on design skills he’d gained while working in the UNL Robotics Lab led by Professor Shane Farritor, Frederick conducted his own research and provisional patent filings for this device. His research revealed no similar products, and he began testing his dispenser in several iterations with conference services staff at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln.
The Quick Pitch honor adds to Frederick’s achievements including a National Science Foundation Graduate Student Fellowship he earned in 2011. In August 2012, he was part of a UNL surgical robotics team that won its category in an American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ robotics competition.
The $1,000 prize from Quick Pitch will fund Frederick’s work to build a device prototype and set up an LLC business for pursuing further innovations from his list of ideas. He said the dispenser is “the first design of mine to go this far,” and he’s eager to see what happens with it. Meanwhile he continues Ph.D. work in UNL's Department of Mechanical & Materials Eengineering, in collaboration with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.