Fulbright Wins Honorable Mention In New Ideas SC Contest

November 12, 2010 at 10:17 am

Spartanburg, S.C.
– Dr. Ron Fulbright, chair and associate professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of South Carolina Upstate, won an honorable mention and a cash award of $1,000 in the New Ideas SC Contest. The winners, which were chosen based on the idea’s viability, innovation/vision and profit/revenue potential, were announced at the Small Business Innovation Summit and Expo in Charleston on November 3.

More than 300 South Carolina residents from 28 counties entered their new business ideas in the contest in one of the five categories: Bio-Science, Software/Information Technology, Engineering, Environmental Sustainability, and Wild Card. The contest is designed to encourage innovation in South Carolina, promote entrepreneurship and the FastTrac® business training programs, help residents develop their ideas into viable businesses, connect entrepreneurs and innovators thus building networks around the state, and provide a forum to bring together venture capitalists, banks, businesses, government, and education leaders.

Fulbright won an honorable mention for his idea in environmental sustainability involving a modular truck, called F-Mod. Fulbright’s idea involves a modular vehicle with a passenger cab designed to mate with one of a number of other modules to form a vehicle for a specific purpose. Mated with the “flatbed” module F-Mod becomes a pickup truck. Mated with the “passenger” module F-Mod essentially becomes a minivan. Other modules might include a camping module and a tailgating module. The standardized design of the F-Mod would allow secondary market companies to build and market compatible modules and Fulbright envisions rental, sharing, and other pay-per use markets being created for the F-Mod. At the heart of the F-Mod is a variable-cylinder engine that automatically adjusts its power output, and therefore also its fuel consumption, to match the load being placed on it by whichever module is mated. In the near future, electric versions of the F-Mod are possible.

“The F-Mod morphs into whatever vehicle you need at the time and uses only as much fuel as is needed for the task it is performing,” said Fulbright, “This leads to a much more environmentally friendly vehicle, not to mention eventually leading to significant cost-savings to the consumer because they can buy one vehicle that does several things instead of having to buy several different kinds of vehicles.”   

This is the sixth time Fulbright has won an award in the annual New Ideas SC Contest. This year, one of his ideas was selected as a top ten finalist in four of the five categories. In 2008, one of Fulbright’s ideas was selected as the Grand Prize winner in the contest. Dr. Fulbright partially credits his success in the contest to a critical thinking and innovation technique called I-TRIZ. A continuing effort begun over 65 years ago and the study of creative principles behind over 2 million patents, I-TRIZ represents the science of innovation.

“I-TRIZ has now evolved into a critical thinking technique that can be taught to anyone,” said Fulbright. “The modeling and analysis technique is unlike any other but can be applied to any domain.”

Fulbright has developed and is currently teaching a course at USC Upstate, entitled Systematic Innovation, the first of its kind in the world. “We now require this course of all of our information management and systems majors because it teaches them a powerful problem solving technique they will not get anywhere else in their education. We want our graduates to be innovative thinkers.”

For more information, contact Dr. Ron Fulbright at (864) 503-5683 or rfulbright@uscupstate.edu.