Pop Culture: Stevens Graduate Alfred Fielding '39 M.S. '43 Hon. D.Eng. ’86 Co-Invented Bubble Wrap
Bubble Wrap. The IMAP protocol that underpins modern email. The Gantt chart.
Any visitor to Stevens Institute of Technology’s Hoboken campus quickly learns of the role the university and its alumni have played in some of the most famous innovations of the past 150 years.
Invention isn’t just part of Stevens’ history: it remains a vital part of the university’s culture today. Stevens boasts a vibrant entrepreneurial spirit, with courses designed to nurture creative, real-world problem solving and an ecosystem — centered around the Office of Technology Commercialization and other units — dedicated to enabling faculty and students in the translation of ideas and research into marketable products and services.
“We teach students to identify some problem that is plaguing society, and to try to create products and services that are ten times better than what exists in the market at addressing that pain," says professor Mukund Iyengar, a key Stevens faculty mentor who has worked with numerous students, some of whom have created companies worth tens of millions of dollars.
Ideas developed at Stevens have given birth to new tools, businesses and technologies such as a new browsing tool to help brokers make more informed decisions; a search tool that scours patent filings at lightning speed; a platform for helping novice investors get better at investing; and countless other technologies. FinTech Studios, a Manhattan-based financial technology firm, was nurtured in the technology incubator Stevens launched in 2016. More recently, a smart insole is being created that can passively monitor the foot health of patients living with diabetes, leveraging a Stevens-developed graphene sensing system that can detect early signs of ulcers. Stevens has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with a Manhattan biotech firm to assist the work.
Undergraduates at Stevens create new product, services, inventions and intellectual property, as well. Stevens biomedical engineering professor Vikki Hazelwood has inspired numerous student innovators, dozens of whom have since received patents for work that began as Stevens design projects. Several of Hazelwood's students, in fact, launched viable startups while still enrolled as undergrads.
A series of hackathons, such as the annual HealthTech Hackathon, give students additional opportunities to workshop and prototype ideas and showcase them for industry leaders. Stevens students participating in BlueHack, an event supported by IBM, the United Nations and a leading anti-human trafficking organization, developed technologies that the UN's Office of Drugs and Crime has since expressed interest in adopting.
The broader innovation has recognized Stevens’ talent for invention. Iyengar is the most recent in a string of Stevens faculty and alumni to earn the prestigious Edison Patent Award from the Research & Development Council of New Jersey; Stevens President Nariman Farvardin was named the council’s Educator of the Year in 2016. And the university continues to host the NJ Tech Meetup, a key monthly meeting of regional entrepreneurs, on its Hoboken campus.
Stevens was founded by "America's First Family of Inventors," and that spirit is as alive on campus today as it was when the university was founded.