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PSU Engineering Students Develop Technology for Local Company
Author: Maseeh College
Posted: September 15, 2008

PSU Engineering Students Develop Technology for Local Company

A Portland State University student engineering team proved PSU’s motto of “Let knowledge serve the city” by creating new technology valued at $50,000 for a local start-up company. The student project was done at no cost other than time to the company.

“We gave the students an idea which they optimized so completely that we can see how to build a market around what was really only an idea last November,” stated APTIV President and CEO, Philipp Kirsch.

APTIV is a start-up company located in PSU’s Business Accelerator. It specializes in developing earth-friendly means of controlling unwanted insect populations. According to Kirsch, insects cause millions of dollars in crop damage in the United States annually. With growing world populations and rising agricultural commodity prices, any improvement in existing insect management solutions would help to relieve food shortages and economic tensions. APTIV also focuses on reducing harm to the earth and people through excessive use of pesticides.

This summer Kirsch and his Vice President of Product Development began work with a PSU engineering project team that was looking for its final real-world project to finish the students’ degree programs. The projects are called “Capstone Projects.” Justin Lind, Rebeka Davidova, Rico Delapaz, and Tin Nguyen are all undergraduate students in the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at PSU. APTIV asked them to come up with a way to detect insect invasion in orchards or farmlands that does not require visual inspection. Current methods require visual inspection of insect traps, and APTIV was looking for a better, cheaper and faster way to provide farmers key information on insect presence.

“The Capstone team did a fantastic job of designing a low cost system that worked reliably and met all the design goals of the project,” said Chris Hoffman, APTIV Vice President of Product Development. Hoffman estimated the value of the technology investigation and solution to be worth $50,000 to APTIV.

The team created an upgraded trap device that incorporates a sensing device. That device is then integrated into what the team calls a Wireless Remote Insect Monitoring Network. The result is a time- and resource-saving trap for farmers who must remain vigilant about insect detection. APTIV plans to make minor refinements of the system and then take it to market.


Capstone projects are an integral part of the curriculum at Portland State University. They provide students with an applied learning opportunity. All undergraduate students complete a Capstone project prior to receiving a Bachelor’s degree. Capstone courses allow students the opportunity to step out of the classroom and into the field by working on a community project. Capstone projects for the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are coordinated by Mark Faust, Assistant Professor and involve student participation on real-world projects sponsored by local companies and governmental agencies. During the 2007-08 academic year students in electrical and computer engineering completed 18 projects as part of their degree program.

The Portland State Business Accelerator (PSBA), where APTIV is located, helps startup companies by providing affordable office space and labs, as well as a wide array of support services to help its resident companies get to market faster with stronger technologies. It’s one of about 1000 incubators and accelerators in the United States. One of the PSBA’s key resources for companies is access to the University community of faculty and students. During the 2007-08 academic year, 100 percent of the 23 companies in the PSBA worked with students on Capstone projects or other university programs. Interacting with startup companies enables students to have opportunities that they may not have with larger companies.

The Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at Portland State University creates an inspiring educational and research environment for students, faculty, and staff to expand knowledge and improve lives through innovation in research and engineering education. The hallmark of the college is a locally relevant and globally significant impact, demonstrated by: a diverse portfolio of collaborative and cross-disciplinary research; exceptional students who apply cutting-edge research to current issues and who are sought after in the global market; strong partnerships with industry, government, and non-profit organizations that promote economic opportunities and contribute to the economic development of the region.


* The Electrical & Computer Engineering Department will hold its annual Capstone Poster Competition on June 8th at 3p.m.  17 posters - including the Cornell winners - will be featured.  Click here for more information and to rsvp.