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The perfect storm of innovation, support and tragedy converged in the life of Eastern Michigan University student Zach Push to produce a revolutionary helmet prototype that can do more than save lives. It can locate them.

The tragedy occurred in November 2008 when a high school friend and an acquaintance of Push’s died in a motorcycle accident. The pair, who were not wearing helmets, were discovered by a hunter the next day, according to news reports.

The accident prompted several questions for Push, who was working on safety equipment projects as a student in EMU’s School of Engineering Technology at the time. Would both riders be alive today if they had helmets equipped with emergency response services? What would it take to market such a product?

“Their deaths were tragedies that inspired many of the safety features in the helmet--features designed to save lives through technology,” says Push, a non-traditional student who expects to receive a bachelor’s degree in product design and development in 2015.

Push, 25, of Allen Park, brainstormed about innovations with the helmet’s co-inventor, Charles Coleman V, 33, of Detroit. Their ideas simmered on the backburner of possibility until Push began to harness the full complement of support services available at EMU.

“Eastern’s program showed us how to transform an idea into a marketable reality,” says Push, who worked with mentors Phil Rufe, a technology transfer coordinator at EMU, and Celeste Stachurski, a doctoral fellow in Eastern’s Office of Research Development and Administration. The collaborative result was a sophisticated business plan and functional prototype equipped with GPS capabilities and sensors that measure an accident’s impact and alert first responders to the location coordinates, among features.

“Phil helped me in many ways, including obtaining provisional patent applications on the helmet’s technology. Celeste helped me fine tune the product’s target audience and develop marketing and distribution strategies,” says Push. Both mentors also helped him secure a $2,000 grant from Eastern’s School of Engineering and Technology and College of Technology to produce a prototype for a state-wide competition. Their helmet made it to the semi-finals, he adds.

Push and Coleman expect to finish testing their prototype later this year. Their creation, which they call a “universal motorsport helmet,” is intended to be used for motorcycling, snowmobiling, and other extreme activities. To make, market and distribute the product, the co-inventors are in the process of launching ZC5 Designs, a tech-based company that also would conduct research and development for clients.

In addition to being a student and an innovator, Push works as a mechanical design engineer for Froude Hoffman, a Novi-based firm that designs and manufactures automotive test equipment. Coleman works as a test lab technician for T.R.W./STI International, a Farmington-based automotive corporation.

“Not only does Zach have an inventive, curious mind, he’s also a great collaborator and team builder,” says Stachurski, adding that Coleman was vital to the venture’s success.

“I believe there are other ‘Zachs’ out there,” adds Rufe. “I talk to many students like him in class. Eastern has a lot to offer these entrepreneurs.”

Linda Hass

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On Nov. 5, you will be invited to participate in a very important study at Eastern Michigan University regarding student interest in entrepreneurship and innovation.

The purpose of this study is to learn about the potential for student business start-ups, engagement in entrepreneurial education, needs for start-up resources and start-up support services to commercialize a product or service.

Please participate in this survey and let us know if you are an Eagle Entrepreneur or aspiring to be!

Details about the student survey.

Division of Communications