Stephen B. Katsaros, a senior in mechanical engineering, is one of three undergraduate winners in the BFGoodrich Collegiate Inventors Program. Each winner received $1,000 in July.
Katsaros' Suspended Pivotal Bike Storage Rack uses the overhead space in a house or apartment that's usually wasted.
"The rack's mounting system doesn't have to be drilled into the ceiling," he said. "Instead, an adjustable bar spans the length of the room to support the rack. The rack pivots downward 90 degrees so a bicycle can easily be placed on it, then rotated back up to lay flat against the ceiling."
In March, Katsaros' design also won the $1,000 third prize in Purdue's Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurial Competition, a universitywide contest coordinated by the Krannert School of Management and the Krannert Graduate Student Association.
Katsaros came up with the idea for his invention the summer before coming to Purdue as a freshman from his home in Arvada, Colo.
"I heard about the size of the rooms in Cary Quad (an all-male residence hall)," Katsaros said. "I knew it was going to be tight, but I didn't want to leave my bike outside. That summer I began thinking about the two feet of space above your head, and I just pictured a bike being up there. Then I needed to figure out how to rotate it down so that it could be loaded."
First, Katsaros said, he built a wooden prototype. Two months later, he took a trip to an aluminum salvage yard to gather materials for a second prototype. "That was the first time I had worked with machine tools, other than a table saw," he said.
Katsaros has patented his design and, this year, along with Purdue engineering graduate Dan Schmidt, a native of York, Pa., formed a company called Odessa Design Inc. to license and then market the rack and other products to distributors nationwide.
Katsaros also is working to develop and market several more of his own inventions. Working with mechanical engineering Professor Alan T. McDonald in an independent directed study course, Katsaros receives academic credit for some of his projects, including a new type of strapless binding for snowboards and a mechanical device for tuning, or sharpening, skis.
One of Katsaros and Schmidt's inventions is a vibration-absorption plate that is mounted to the bindings on downhill skis. A ski company has purchased materials for the duo to develop the invention further. A prototype is being tested by Kyle Rasmussen, a top U.S. World Cup skier.
"Most of the ski dampening plates on the market are made of solid plastic or a combination of metal and rubber," Katsaros said. "But those plates don't take into account the high-frequency vibrations that move through the skis as they pass over the snow and that can affect the performance of the skis. We've improved the ski's performance by combining the properties of two totally different materials, a type of urethane and aluminum foam, which is only about 8 percent the weight of regular aluminum. We've combined them into a solid plate that absorbs vibrations while keeping the boot sole higher off the snow during turns on a steep incline."
Katsaros, who was a downhill racer for eight years in Vail, Colo., and is on Purdue's ski racing team, said the vibration-absorption system has been a pilot project for him in determining how he will approach companies in the future.
"It took a lot of effort in terms of getting to know that market," he said. "The company that I approached with this design is a competitor of the company that makes the plates currently used by 90 to 95 percent of World Cup skiers, so they're very interested in bringing our product to market. This project also has given me experience in going to companies to request funding to develop a product, licensing a design, and learning about manufacturing and distribution."
Katsaros said he and Schmidt have many more ideas for products they hope to bring to market. After Katsaros graduates next May, they plan to relocate to Colorado or Pennsylvania, where Schmidt now works, and devote full time to Odessa Design.
Sources: Stephen B. Katsaros and Dan Schmidt, (765) 743-5284; Internet, email@example.com
Alan T. McDonald, (765) 494-5621; Internet, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Amanda Siegfried, (765) 494-4709; home, (765) 497-1245; Internet, email@example.com
NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Color photo of Steven Katsaros with his bike rack is available from Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2096.
To the Purdue News and Photos Page