How to discourage innovation among engineering students

Here is one of those what-were-they thinking news stories. The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri recently sponsored a student contest to develop, test and market novel iPhone applications. And they got some really good ones. The winner, called NearBuy, enables users to locate prospective homes and real estate listings on their smartphones. It shows real estate listings as pins on a map. People can get directions to listings, or call real estate agents with just two taps on their iPhones.

In fact, NearBuy quickly climbed onto the iPhone list of top 10 free business apps and maintained a top 20 ranking for more than six weeks.

So far so good. Then the U. of Missouri hinted that it owned the fruits of its own students' labors, including NearBuy. Other students in the competition dropped out as a result, according to an item on the affair in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Thankfully, it appears U of M came to its senses on this issue. I can't think of a better way of squelching the creative juices of engineering students than by enforcing a policy like this. You can read the Chronicle's recounting of this episode here: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/iphone-app-raises-questions-about-who-owns-student-inventions/29265?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

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Lee Teschler

Leland serves as Editor-in-Chief of Machine Design. He has 34 years of Service and holds a B.S. Engineering from the University of Michigan, a B.S. Electrical Engineering from the University of...
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