STTR Phase I: Digital eWriter for the Classroom

Period of Performance: 01/01/2013 - 12/31/2013

$225K

Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Kent Displays, Inc.
343 Portage Blvd
Kent, OH 44240
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Research Institution

University of Akron
284 Polsky Building
Akron, OH 44325
Institution POC

Abstract

The innovation is the development of a new class of devices known as eWriters for classroom use as both a sustainable paper replacement technology and an effective tool for student/teacher interaction. These devices address the problem of achieving a sustainable world by satisfying the human need for making and recording handwritten images without the environmental harm associated with the production of paper. They are widely accepted based on a writing experience which closely mimics the feel of pen and paper. The paperless classroom workflow will require tools for automatically collecting assignments and electronically grading them. Virtual whiteboards enabled by the devices will be created to enhance student/teacher interaction. The project focuses on math and science education, areas that are difficult to service with other device types, such as ones requiring keyboard input, due to the basic nature of the work, special symbols, and formatting requirements. However, the devices themselves are applicable to a broader range of subject areas, including art, where it is noteworthy that some artists have already adopted the eWriters for their medium. As eWriters are a new technology, the project will be among the first to explore their transformative potential as applied to education. The broader/commercial impact begins with the societal benefit of significantly reduced paper consumption in schools and later extends into the workplace as increasing numbers of students enter the workforce prepared to perform their jobs without the use of paper. Also important is the new tool that eWriters provide to teachers, particularly through virtual whiteboards that permit wireless interaction between a teacher and their students. Capable teachers will find new ways of reaching students in subject areas as varied as art and science. It is hard to overstate the importance of this at a time of flagging student test scores and academic competitiveness. Commercially, the eWriter display technology has been developed and manufactured in the United States, with investments in roll-to-roll display production facilities in Kent, Ohio. Development of the technology into an educational tool therefore assists in sustaining the domestic economy, in addition to the environment. The existing eWriter product, distribution, retail channels, and marketing give a strong platform for the educational development to be commercialized. The initial success in educational settings shows strong promise and potential for commercialization success in this field.