Didier Roux, CTO of Saint-Gobain, visits CWRU campus

Each year, Case Western Reserve University celebrates National Engineers Week (E-Week) to highlight engineers’ contributions to society. Students are able to participate in a variety of science-based competitions, attend social events,  and be inspired by industry leaders through various speaking events,  all culminating in the E-Week Banquet.

This year's banquet keynote address, "350 Years, 350 Reasons to Believe in the Future", was delivered by Saint-Gobain's Vice-President for Research and Development and Innovation Didier Roux. A world leader in the habitat, construction, and materials markets, Saint-Gobain designs, manufactures, and distributes building and high-performance materials, while offering innovative solutions to meet the fundamental global challenges of growth, energy, and environmental protection. Saint-Gobain's endeavor to provide technical solutions is paralleled by Case Western Reserve's commitment to entrepreneurial innovation, as both organizations move forward to face exceptional challenges that will require innovation from all aspects of industry.  

In recognition of this shared mission, for the past seven years, Saint-Gobain  has sponsored a Student  Design Competition and helped  support Case Western Reserve's commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship. The competition encourages engineering innovation within a business context by having interdisciplinary teams develop prototypes of novel ideas and assess their inventions for marketability, profitability, and patentability. Teams have typically included not only members from a range of engineering and science disciplines, but also incorporated peers from the Weatherhead School of Management and the Cleveland Institute of Art. The program welcomes an interdisciplinary approach , as team success is usually driven by diversity of thought. 

While intended to be an engineering-focused endeavor rather than a business plan competition, in many instances, the fruits of the teams’ efforts have laid the foundation for the creation of a student-led start-up company. Past successes include  Carbon Origins, an aerospace startup company with the goal to empower people to explore the universe through the use of rapidly re-deployable rockets ; Sprav,  an energy and water saving smart meter for the shower; and HolePatch LLC, which offers an eco-friendly and cost-effective method to quickly patch pothole s. Saint-Gobain's relationship with CWRU began through the competition, but has continued to expand through  mutually beneficial research endeavors. To date, Saint-Gobain has invested over $1 million in various research projects throughout the university in area of materials science and polymer engineering.     

This year’s finals included four teams with projects ranging from a new class of de-icers, to interactive and customizable furniture to harvesting energy to bring more power to smartphone users. The four teams included 7 students from a variety of engineering disciplines as well as business and industrial design students. The winning team was Parihug, whose project involved sending long distance hugs to loved ones through electronically connected teddy bears. That team was awarded a cash prize of $9,000 and a trip to the Saint Gobain Research and Development lab. The 2016-2017 academic year competition will kick off in September.