A Match Made on Campus

SBDC links ToM with Technology Resource Center

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo.,

Dec. 19, 2003 – When you need answers to your small business questions, who are you going to call?

Ticks or Mosquitoes, LLC, (ToM), a Sikeston, Mo., based company, turned to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Southeast Missouri State University.

Buz Sutherland, director of the SBDC, says, “the University offers substantial resources and can provide practical, applied help to the business community. With the many resources at our fingertips, the University can be a practical partner with the business world.”

That’s what the pioneers of ToM Trap discovered when Sutherland put their company in touch with the Technology Resource Center based in the School of Polytechnic Studies at Southeast Missouri State University.

“They may be the best kept secret in Southeast Missouri,” Matthews said of the Technology Resource Center. “I had no idea they had all the capabilities of doing what they can do. They have bent over backwards to help us.”

Last summer, faculty and students in the school of Polytechnic Studies provided research and development assistance to ToM, a company that develops tick and mosquito traps and related products for consumer and governmental use. The company has licensed patents for products to control both ticks and mosquitoes, and currently markets the ToMTrap. Business partners are David Matthews and Dr. Ed Masters along with Jordan Masters and Aaron Boyce, both recent graduates of Southeast Missouri State University.

The Southeast group, led by Dr. Ragu Athinarayanan, associate professor of industrial and engineering technology, and Dr. Bijan Pashaie, Southeast associate professor of physics and engineering physics, worked with two students on improving the ToM Trap product and refining a drip system associated with it. The product will be available soon. For more information on the trap, visit http://www.tomtrap.com. Officials with the company say they are hopeful the product will be available directly and, perhaps, in the retail sector in the near future.

The ToM trap is designed to attract mosquitoes to non-toxic fumes emitted from a device that houses specialized chemicals. The trap is unique in that it is the only such product on the market that does not require electricity or propane to operate, Matthews said. Rather, fumes are emitted after water drips into a device housing the chemicals. Consumers who purchase the trap fill a drip chamber with water. The drip chamber sits above a base that houses the chemical. Water drips from the chamber into the base and reacts with the chemical to emit fumes.

The problem, said Matthews, was how to get the water to drip a consistent amount into the chemical base over a seven-day period.

“They wanted a controlled reaction,” Athinarayanan said. “We needed to design it so the pressure in the drip chamber didn’t change over a period of time” as the water emptied from it.

Athinarayanan said the Southeast researchers used 3D CAD solid modeling computer software and the Rapid Prototyping machine to design a prototype for the pressure cup. The researchers then tested the prototype.

“We did lots of testing,” Athinarayanan said.

The researchers inserted a variety of transfer membranes into the pressure cup to monitor their flow rates. Eventually, the company settled on using a wick for maintaining a consistent drip rate.

Athinarayanan said the work the Technology Resource Center conducted for ToM is among several projects the Center takes on in an effort to assist area business and industry. The Technology Resource Center is designed to be a testbed for research and development.

“We provide technical expertise and outreach to area industry,” he said.

Assisting with the research were Ronald Tolbert of Cape Girardeau, a Southeast graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in industrial management, and David Shaw of Waltonville, Ill., a senior majoring in manufacturing engineering technology.

“They were really excited about the project,” Athinarayanan said. “They knew the potential for marketability was very high.”