Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mixing Gemstone with the Blarney Stone: A Student Perspective to Studying Abroad

Sophomore Eric McCaffrey shares her experience studying abroad in Ireland: 

This semester I set off for the Emerald Isles to study abroad at University College Cork in Cork, Ireland. I think the biggest draw to studying abroad is, of course, the opportunity to experience a new culture. However, since arriving in Ireland two months ago I have found that studying abroad enhances nearly every facet of the college experience… Gemstone included! From an academic standpoint studying abroad has afforded me the opportunity to continue with my coursework for my microbiology major while also diving into the Irish culture. It has become a ‘normal’ day for me to go from speaking Gaelic and listening to Irish traditional music in the morning to learning about Immunology and Medical Microbiology in the afternoon! Additionally, participating in a public health internship is giving me the chance to gain a new perspective on health and medicine.

I am of course still a member of my Gemstone team—Team ATTENT—while abroad. While it may seem difficult or a burden to maintain work on a Gemstone team while abroad, it has actually been a very easy transition. My team, mentor, and the Gemstone staff have been incredibly accommodating. One of my favorite parts of the week is being able to Skype into team meetings and see some familiar faces from back at home! I still feel that even while abroad, I am able to contribute towards all the work the team has been doing on our thesis proposal and grant applications this semester. While in Ireland I have gotten the opportunity to converse with professors and medical professionals about the research Team ATTENT will be doing. Hearing their input and perspective is definitely enriching the research process and allowing me to look at our research problem in new ways.

If the academic opportunities and Gemstone experience are not enough of a reason to study abroad as a Gemstone student then the cultural opportunities should seal the deal. To be able to experience the Irish culture, along with other European countries, makes every day an exciting adventure! For all that it has offered me already, studying abroad is the best decision I have made while at UMD… besides joining Gemstone of course!

-Erin McCaffrey: Team ATTENT: Class of 2016

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Startup Straight from the Minds of Some of the Gemstone Program's Precious Gems: Mindforge Design

After the first week of the fall semester, Aerospace Engineering student Brett Potter decided to have some fun. After buying a kit for a 3-D printer off the internet for $300, he spent an entire Saturday putting it together. Now a semester later, the sophomore from Team TESLA is working on a startup with a few friends, with the printer at the center.

Potter first gained experience with the up-and coming technology in high school, and thought it would be cool to get his own desktop model. Roommate and fellow Gemstone student Ben Tunick (Bioengineering, Team BASIC) soon took an interest in Potter’s creation, followed closely by their across-the-hall neighbor Sam Thomas (Criminology and Criminal Justice major). After Thomas mentioned the possibility of turning the printer into a business venture, the three sophomores realized it could be a great idea.

Once they embraced the opportunity, the trio soon began spreading the word and preparing to open for business. It wasn’t long before they branched out. Their startup, christened “Mindforge Design,” has an Xbox Kinect to scan objects and people into their computers, and can print bobble heads and small copies of said object from the scanned model. In addition to offering a line of small Maryland-themed products, Mindforge offers printing of custom designs, regardless of whether the client can make a model in CAD.

Since then, Mindforge Design opened for business and even turned a few heads. Late in the semester, the three entrepreneurs were accepted into the Startup Shell, an on-campus club aimed at guiding new startups and helping them succeed through collaboration and support. In addition, the group has been contacted by Route 1 Apparel. The two parties are currently negotiating the sale of a few 3D printed Maryland items through the popular retailer.

Keep a lookout for these guys going forward! Their website is

-Ben Tunick: Team BASIC: Class of 2016