Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Q&A: Zoe Dinneen ’18

Zoe Dinneen ’18
“Managing an upper-level engineering team without having a formal engineering background has been the most incredible learning experience.” —Zoe Dinneen. Photograph by Kathryn Lapierre.

When studio art major and Thayer human-centered design minor Zoe Dinneen ’18 took ENGS 21: Introduction to Engineering last year, she helped invent a pneumatic fire hydrant cover that easily clears hydrants of snow. The device interested the Hanover Fire Department and turned Dinneen into an entrepreneur. She and engineering major Kelsey Catano ’18 have filed a patent with their ENGS 21 team, founded a company, ClearPressure, and sponsored an ENGS 89/90 group of BE students to further develop the invention.

What is it like to have an ENGS 89/90 group working for you?

It has been exhilarating to develop our solution from inception to manufacturing to implementation. Building a company has been a practice in tapping the Dartmouth network. I have met so many professors, alums, and graduate students who have shaped my approach to solving design and business challenges. I was nervous about my first meeting with the 89/90 group we’re sponsoring because I’m a junior, I’m not an engineer, and I had to come to them and say, “Hi, I’m basically your boss, I’m paying for your work, and I’m really excited for you to be working with me, and this is what I want” in a very clear way. Managing an upper-level engineering team without having a formal engineering background has been the most incredible learning experience.

What problem is your group trying to solve?

We patented a works-like prototype consisting of a stack of tire inner tubes connected by a hose that uses air to displace snow in one minute. We tasked the 89/90 team with transforming our concept into a manufacture-ready device that can also move ice. The questions we posed were: What materials are going to stand up to the stress of air pressure and winter? What design has the fewest seams, the simplest aesthetic, and is the most cost effective? We also want the design to easily integrate into the established system to ensure that firemen can respond to an emergency immediately.

How is the project progressing?
The team has been iterating different shapes and designs and is thinking about it in a holistic way. I have been impressed by their methodical approach. There was so much forward momentum this past fall that Kelsey and I decided to dedicate our off-term to bringing this product to market.

Future plans?
I’m working to secure a partnership with Hanover, in which they will financially support the progress going forward so we can do some testing. I’m also hoping to partner with a team of graduate business students who will be able to help me take the company to the next level. I am interested in design, in entrepreneurship, and fostering connections through alumni. I’m trying to keep an open mind about my career plans. The way I think about things has been changing so rapidly as I learn more about business, engineering, and the infinite possibilities that arise when you refuse to take no for an answer.

Categories: The Great Hall, Q&A

Tags: entrepreneurship, innovation, patent, projects, students

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