If you've ever struggled to retrieve a bagel stuck in your toaster, stumbled in your ski boots or complained about yard work, students at Carnegie Mellon have a solution for you.
Seniors in mechanical engineering's capstone course — taught by Jeremy Michalek (E '99) — were tasked with choosing a commercial product, studying it for innovation opportunities, and either modifying it or creating a new design. (Watch this video to see some of the students' inventions.)
Looking for a way to have a positive impact on an everyday frustration, Ian Price's group decided to go for improving the toaster.
"We wanted to focus on something that was commonly used, and which had the potential to have the most improvement," Price said. "After brainstorming a bunch of possible ideas to pursue, we thought that the toaster had a lot of potential for a major design change."
He added, "This was also backed up by some surveys we conducted, which showed that a majority of people were not satisfied with their current toaster."
Jeremy Ozer's group — musicians, mostly — zeroed in on the electric guitar, specifically the bridge.
"The current mainstream guitar bridge is difficult to use and has major problems with tuning," Ozer explained, noting that the majority of guitarists play the guitar as a hobby, not as a profession. "They are looking for a guitar bridge that is low cost, sounds great, and is easy and hassle-free to use. Our bridge simplifies the design, getting rid of elements the average user doesn't need."
Ozer added, "Our bridge also uses a cartridge design that allows for easy string changes, and keeps the guitar in much better tune than the competition."
Other inventions included an intelligent baby stroller that will only move for its owner; a weed-wacker that is easier to handle; a device for ski boots that makes them easier to walk in; and an exercise bike that charges your iPod while you're pedaling.
"The course puts the student in the driver's seat, as the structure of the course allows for different paths. It is very hands on, and can be applied to real world situations," Ozer said. "While the other courses focus on theoretical concepts, this one helps students apply the logic and skill set they have developed to a real world design scenario."