CLEVELAND — It’s one of the largest open-access innovation centers at a university in the world -- and it happens to be right in our backyard.
About three years ago, Case Western Reserve University opened a 7-story, 50,000 square foot facility as the home base of its innovation and entrepreneurship program for students and the public. The Think[box] facility is designed as a place where individuals can take an idea and bring it to life using state-of-the-art technology and equipment.
The facility is broken up into seven floors, each used in the order of launching an idea, creating it into a physical form and potentially creating a startup company to put the product on the marketplace.
"For me, starting a company has always been a life long dream," said CWRU Engineering student Prince Ghosh.
Ghosh and his teammate, Lucas Fridman, have developed a tool to help manufacturing companies record and analyze their production equipment.
"What we developed is a series of low cost sensors that pick up the vibrational signals of industrial machinery," said Ghosh.
The product attaches to industrial equipment, logging the way a companies machinery works and its product output. The device gives companies an idea of whether their machine is putting out the right product at the right amount time.
"We can tell when the machines are turning on in the morning, when they’re turning off at night. We can tell when the workers go to lunch, if they take a lunch break 10 minutes early or come 10 minutes late."
The student duo said the program at think[box] has allowed them to take what they’ve learned in a textbook and push it a step further to launch their own startup company.
"Until you turn it into a prototype, and no matter how good that prototype is, you don’t really get a sense of its potential impact," said Think[box] Outreach Coordinator Tiffany McNamara.
McNamara said the center stands out from the rest based on its community ecosystem that helps students and members of the public launch their idea in a facility where support staff and university resources are available to help nurture the design concepts.
"You can start on coming up with a product from your idea in a number of hours after being trained."
It’s hard to put a limit on innovation, but there are restrictions.
"There’s no printing, no fabrication, no making of any weapons of any kind here," said McNamara.
McNamara said it’s a safety concern and it’s also not part of the mission of Think[box]. She said their focus is on bringing local innovation and entrepreneurship together -- under one roof.
The program is designed so even beginners can get started on a project. Think[box] has a number of training tools online and workshops inside the building to help individuals get started on their own designs.