Melbourne Physician Teams with Florida Tech Students on Patent
MELBOURNE, FLA. — Several months ago Richard A. Hynes, M.D., a Melbourne surgeon, relaxed in his yard on a hot summer day and began thinking. He considered
that the bulk of a home energy bill was from the air conditioner. He mused that the life of an air conditioner is curtailed by corrosion. Hynes imagined a
technology addition that could cut down on corrosion, save energy and increase the life of the appliance.
He felt so good about the idea he patented it.
Because a doctor’s busy life doesn’t afford much extra time for engineering projects and marketing investigations, Hynes turned to Florida Tech. Under an
initial $170,000 in fellowship funding from Hynes, one graduate student in the College of Engineering and another in the College of Business began work
this summer on his idea. One will create the low-cost device based on Hynes’s
patent — a sprinkler system cleaning mechanism — and the other will investigate marketing and commercialization.
The students are Jason Schuler, College of Engineering, and Erin Gullickson, College of Business. In May 2007 Schuler earned a Florida Tech bachelor’s
degree in mechanical engineering and Gullickson earned one in business administration. Hynes intends to continue funding the students’ work until it’s
complete, which is projected for early 2009. This will entail a similar sum.
“It’s a great opportunity for these students to experience engineering and business coming together as it must in the real world,” said Mary Helen McCay,
research professor and director of Florida Tech’s National Center for Hydrogen Research. She is also Schuler’s adviser as he works on a master’s degree in
Gullickson’s College of Business adviser, Carolyn Fausnaugh, assistant professor of strategy and new ventures, said the work will be integrated into
Gullickson’s course projects and will be the focus of her work as a graduate research assistant. The student has already begun scouring the Web for
anti-corrosion work done by companies and will investigate which air conditioner makers may be the most technology-oriented.
“We’re tracking all our work from the start as an example of an approach to developing an idea into a product and a marketing plan,” said Fausnaugh. “We
think we’ll learn a lot in proving the science, building the product and managing the financial aspects of commercialization, and we’ll publish. But our
most important contribution will be developing an embodiment of the product and determining the best path to its commercialization.”
Additionally, Hynes has been offered an appointment as a research professor in the College of Engineering. He will serve as an ad hoc committee member for
student thesis projects.