Baylor Team Featured at National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance Event

  • News Photo 4412
    Operating press to produce board
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    Prototype of binder-less particle board
  • News Photo 4413
    Samples of coconut composite
  • News Photo 4414
    Samples of coconut composite
March 20, 2008

A team of Baylor University researchers who have identified a variety of low-cost products that can be manufactured from coconuts in poor coastal regions showcased their work Friday, March 21, in Dallas as representatives of the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance's (NCIIA) March Madness for the Mind conference. The annual event aims to demonstrate how students are bringing their best ideas from concept to commercialization.

The Baylor team joined a dozen other select groups and displayed their state-of-the-art innovations in a private exhibition for NCIIA conference registrants. The select teams represent more than 200 collaborating groups of college students, faculty and industry mentors who have received NCIIA grants to support the development of their inventions over the past decade.

"We are very excited about the opportunity for more people to find out about what we are doing to serve Christ," said Stanton Greer, a Baylor mechanical engineering graduate student from Fort Smith, Ark., who is overseeing the Baylor project. "It is an honor to be put in the same class with so many other great projects and schools and to be able to bring glory to God on such a large stage."

Since coconuts are an abundant, renewable resource in almost all coastal regions near the equator, Baylor's team worked to create multiple products that could be manufactured from coconuts in those regions using simple and inexpensive technology. For this event, they focused on two specific products: binderless particle board made from dried coconut husks, and filler for polymeric composites made from finely ground coconut shells. The team also is developing a franchising business model created with Sustainable Rural Enterprises, a Philippine coconut co-op. Baylor researchers hope that the technologies in development will allow farmers to increase the value of their coconuts from $0.05 to $0.50 each, increasing their annual income from $500 to $5,000.

To make the particle board, the Baylor researchers hot press coconut pith by adding heat and pressure with the right amount of timing. Greer said hot pressing the coconut pith takes advantage of the natural thermosetting properties to form a single structure, instead of relying on chemical binders to glue particles together. As for the filler for polymeric composites, the researchers simply mix the ground shell into the plastic before it hardens.

The Baylor team showcased their work at the Nasher Sculpture Center in the Dallas Arts District.

For more information, contact Dr. Walter Bradley, distinguished professor of engineering at Baylor, at (254) 710-7370.

About NCIIA

The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance fosters invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship in higher education as a way of creating innovative, commercially viable, and socially beneficial businesses and employment opportunities in the United States.

The program was founded on the premise that invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship are essential components of the higher education curriculum and vital to the nation's economic future. The NCIIA works with colleges and universities to build collaborative experiential learning programs that help nurture a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs with strong technical and business skills and the tools and intention to make the world a better place.

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