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ME student team receives VentureWell E-Team Grant for safe battery storage design


Each year, some 3,500 coin cell batteries are swallowed by children and toddlers, causing internal burns in the esophagus and fatalities. When exhausted, batteries have a tendency to end up in regular trash bins or, in the above cases, left where children can gain access to them. Unfortunately, very few market solutions exist for proper battery disposal, and those currently available tend to fail to secure the batteries from reach and/or have a complicated, confusing design which makes proper use difficult.

A team of ME undergraduates who participated in the RISE ME390 program has received external funding through the VentureWell e-team program to help commercialize their safe battery storage innovation.

In a recent UMSI news article, ME Graduate and team member Noah Maike was quoted: “We realized this is partially a battery packaging problem. People forget about unused batteries and store them loose in a drawer or somewhere that’s accessible to kids. We created a solution that keeps the batteries safely housed until you’re ready for a new one.” 

The SafeStoreBattery team first developed their engineering-based solution in the capstone design course, ME450 in Fall 2021, advised by Professor Greg Hulbert. Their solution addresses the need for an intuitive storage method for batteries that accounts for associated environmental and child-safety concerns.

The team further matured their design in Winter 2022 through an undergraduate research RISE ME390 course advised by Professor Dan Cooper, during which they leveraged Michigan’s entrepreneurial opportunities (e.g., completing the regional NSF I-Corps customer discovery program) and lab resources – such as an injection molding machine they used with 3D printed resin dies – to make plastic prototypes of their sealed storage device and to plan for mass manufacturing.

Noah Maike told us that “resources available to the team through the UM-ME department allowed the team to create functional prototypes and experiment with cutting edge manufacturing technologies that would otherwise not be available to [the team].”

The received VentureWell E-Team Grant will enable the team to accelerate their commercialization efforts through curated expertise and resources to support the patent application process.

Liberty Hudson, also a team member and an ME graduate, said, “Receiving the E-Team grant serves as confirmation that the issue we are addressing exists, has no adequate solution currently, and our idea has a chance of reducing it. We have received positive support from the Michigan community throughout this project, but this grant demonstrates that our solution has merit beyond the walls of a classroom and that they believe our team is equipped to address it. It feels incredibly empowering to know that a grant given on the basis of impact and scalability has been awarded to our efforts and this will no doubt renew our determination to make the battery space safer for children.”

The SafeStoreBattery student team consists of Caroline Fogarty, Liberty Hudson, Noah Maike, and Christian Zung.

Congratulations, SafeStoreBattery team!

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design student news