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West Liberty University, Wheeling Firm Partnership to Receive Seed Grant

August 25, 2013

ITC logoA new partnership between a Wheeling company and West Liberty University focused on developing and marketing a better way to teach college level science has received a key boost in the form of a seed grant from a new statewide economic development initiative.

The Innovation Transfer Consortium (ITC), a project of TechConnect WV, has awarded a $5,000 seed grant to Wheeling’s Polyhedron Learning Media (PLM) and WLU to develop two online physics lab simulations. The resulting product will not only help WLU faculty teach labs more efficiently and economically, it may also be marketed to other colleges and universities across the nation.

TechConnect WV, a statewide economic development organization that works to foster and promote innovation-based businesses and entrepreneurial activities throughout West Virginia, created ITC.

TechConnect WV Executive Director Anne Barth said ITC specifically works to help forge productive connections between the researchers at work in West Virginia’s innovative institutions of higher education and the potential private sector partners who can help turn their work into viable products, services, technologies and, ultimately, jobs.

ITC Director Jack Carpenter explained that the PLM/WLU partnership was a great example of the types of work the organization is seeking to support through its seed grant program.

“The seed grant project provides small matching research grants of up to $5,000 for projects involving partnerships between primarily undergraduate institutions and the private sector,” Carpenter said. “Polyhedron and WLU are working to commercialize a product that can have a real impact on the way science is taught at the higher education level.”

PLM co-founder Jeanne Finstein said West Liberty offers an introductory physical science course that includes topics in physics, chemistry, astronomy and geology.

“WLU faculty members have expressed a need for online labs to accompany the course,” she wrote in her ITC grant application. “These online options would help relieve the budget problems related to the funding of lab facilities and equipment and would also allow more scheduling flexibility for on-campus students and the option of beginning development of the course through distance learning.”

PLM, meanwhile, had already developed a set of online college-level physics labs through a US Department of Education project and had been discussing a partnership to answer the WLU needs when the seed grant project became available.

Carpenter said the partnership submitted an application that was reviewed for commercialization potential.

The goals of the project are to upgrade and adapt PLM lab simulations based on lesson plans created by West Liberty faculty and test the simulations with WLU students to determine effectiveness of the virtual labs as compared to comparable hands-on labs.

The resulting product could then be marketed to other colleges and universities.

Carpenter said ITC continues to accept seed grant applications from partnerships involving businesses and higher education.  Grant application materials are available at:  http://techconnectwv.org/jobs/apply/959/.

For more information about ITC, visit http://www.innovationtransfer.org. For more information about TechConnectWV, visit http://techconnectwv.org.