Device that aids people with muscular dystrophy wins inaugural WPI Entrepreneurship Award

WORCESTER, Mass. -- June 7, 2006 -- A faculty member and two graduate students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) who developed a motorized brace that enables people suffering from muscular dystrophy to perform simple tasks with their hands, and gain a greater sense of independence, have received WPI's first Kalenian Award for entrepreneurship. The award includes $25,000 in seed funding to help the team further develop the technology.

The winners are Allen Hoffman, professor of mechanical engineering and co-founder of WPI's Assistive Technology Resource Center, Michael Scarsella '05 of Sterling, Mass., and Steven Toddes '05 of Gettysburg, Pa. Scarsella and Toddes are both currently graduate students in WPI's Mechanical Engineering Department.

The Kalenian Award was established this year by Alba Kalenian in memory of her late husband, inventor Aram Kalenian '33. Its purpose is to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship among WPI students, faculty, and alumni by providing seed funds to advance their ideas. Alba Kalenian says her husband believed "the highest and best use of a WPI education is to invent, and patent, then create an invention-based business and employ."

This award is designed to fuel the entrepreneurial spirit by funding a single viable invention each year. Proposals are reviewed by an award committee consisting of Paul Kalenian, son of Aram and Alba, Carol Simpson, WPI's provost and senior vice president, and McRae Banks, head of WPI's Department of Management and director of the university's Collaborative for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The winner is selected based on the novelty of the invention and its commercial potential, the viability of its business plan, and the likelihood of its success. Ideally, the recipients should be either associated with an existing small business or in the process of trying to establish one. They should plan to use the prize to help move their invention toward commercialization. <

Contact: Michael Dorsey
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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