Innovation and Robert Morris University

The huzzahs for tech/higher ed collaboration in Pittsburgh usually emerge from Oakland, home of the rocket scientists at Pitt and CMU. But as most Pittsburghers know, there are many other high caliber colleges and universities in the region. Duquesne, for example, often feels slighted in tech development conversations.

So I was especially intrigued the other day to receive a press release from Robert Morris University that starts off as follows:

Robert Morris University’s Center for Applied Research in Engineering and Science (RMU-CARES) has received two grants from Pittsburgh-based Innovation Works to fund the development of a new manufacturing process and the creation of a device to aid in the care of homebound individuals.

The first grant, for $50,000, is to design and build a robotic work cell for Penna Flame Inc., a Zelienople company that provides flame hardening, a process that renders the surface of machine parts more resistant to wear. Currently, Penna Flame utilizes a manual process in which each tooth of a gear is individually heated with a 2200-degree Fahrenheit flame. As with other manual processes, problems arise with operator fatigue and consistency and quality. The manual operation will be eliminated and replaced by an automated one using industrial robots.

The second grant, for $25,000, will be utilized to design and build three prototypes of a unique device dubbed The Memory Minder. Triggered by a sensor, the device will provide recorded messages in response to the needs of the individual user. The Memory Minder delivers customized messages set by a caretaker, nurse, family
member or the user. The device can deliver several timed messages throughout the day with personalized messages from familiar voices that are critical to an individual’s care.

I hope that I'll be hearing more about RMU's partnering with Innovation Works. The press release came to my in box from longtime Burghosphere contributor and new RMU Director of Public Relations Jonathan Potts, he of The Conversation and the Dead Tree Blog.


2 Responses to "Innovation and Robert Morris University"

Mark Rauterkus said... 2/09/2008 3:11 PM

Humm.... That Memory Minder sounds a lot like a product that could be put obsolete by a cell phone.

Did you get one press release or two?

Chump change, really.

Anonymous said... 2/22/2008 1:45 AM

I'd rather see them use that money to fund their CARES seminars. As it stands know they are several hundred dollars. As a small business owner, I'd love to go, but a $20 book seems like a better investment.

Part 2: Am I the only one who cringes at seeing an established company get a hand out. Honestly, the company in Zelie should be able to fund their own R&D if they want to make it cheaper. It's not like they aren't getting paid to build those parts. Wouldn't econ dev handouts be better served to seed technology that isn't yet self sustaining, i.e. pre-customer.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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