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Olin students gain real-world experience

After creating a rough prototype of MindScout, a technology tool geared to help Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers, a student team from F.W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham this past spring introduced the invention to various groups, gaining real-world experience and even an award.

"You're a hands-on team player from the beginning with real engineering work," said recent graduate Alison E. Lee, 21, of Olin's philosophy.

In May, three members of the student team, coordinated by Lee, presented MindScout at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and walked away with second place honors in the seventh annual International Electrical Engineering Student Design Contest, in which some 50 teams competed.

In addition to opportunities provided at the school to pitch their project to visiting company representatives, the team explained the invention to 25 professionals at the Massachusetts Alzheimer's Association in Watertown and had a booth at a Massachusetts Alzheimer's Conference in Marlborough. (Some team members also are on board to make a presentation to officials at the forthcoming national Alzheimer's Association office in Washington, D.C., at a date yet to be determined.)

In May, the students were among 73 who graduated in the second class at the roughly 300-student college, established in Needham in 2002 and named for the late Franklin W. Olin, who died in 1951 after making his mark in both world wars as an ammunition entrepreneur.

There were 13 projects, designated SCOPE (Senior Consulting Project for Engineering), representing students' achievements before graduating. However, MindScout was the only project funded by Olin. Every year, corporations including Boeing, Boston Scientific, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard, finance and set the goals for projects. In return, they retain intellectual property rights for any developments. By contrast, Olin recruits senior participants, sets the goal, and funds one project, and those team members retain intellectual property rights unless they opt to sign them over to a new student team or other group committed to further development.

PATTY MORIN FITZGERALD

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