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Supporting innovative Thinking in Design and invention

What is the Timothy Harkness Fund for Invention?

The Hampshire College Timothy Harkness Fund for Invention awards grants for innovative work in applied design and invention in areas of sustainability and renewable energy. This endowed fund makes annual awards to Five College students and alumni to support their work in invention and innovation. The fund was established in memory of Hampshire College alumnus Timothy Harkness (70F), who dedicated many years to innovative work in solar energy systems, as well as to creative design of tools, kites, and furniture.

The fund was established by the Harkness family in conjunction with the Lemelson Center in memory of this Hampshire College alumnus. Tim was a passionate inventor who spent his life problem-solving, especially in areas that could benefit society through environmentally conscious energy solutions. He developed a portable solar cooker that uses mirrors to focus the sun’s heat. He was also interested in exploring a wider range of technologies, including the use of solar energy for refrigeration, the production of electricity, and heat pumps. This fund commemorates Tim’s remarkable creativity by providing support for student work in design and invention.

What kind of projects are awarded Harkness Grants?

Grants are awarded to projects that involve design in the fields of sustainability or renewable energy. The project must have some kind of inventive or innovative element. Reconstruction or repetition of an existing design will not receive funding.

Although there is a great diversity of project topics, some past grantees include:

SolarPump Alum Beth Ferguson has developed a mobile solar charging station consisting of a traditional gasoline pump outfitted with solar panels, that can be used to charge laptops, cellphones, digital cameras, and other devices. The SolarPump has been used at festivals such as Austin's South by Southwest.

Algae Photobioreactor The photobioreactor is a device that stimulates continuous growth of algae, whose accelerated photosynthetic process and high oil content make it an ideal source for renewable biofuels. The original prototype was developed by Jon Spencer 04F and Mida McKenrick 06F, and continued development was made by Jack Lindsay.

Wind Turbine: Ben Obriecht 05F built a vertical axis electricity generation wind turbine. He used an innovative design in which the vanes form a spiraling egg shape. This shape creates less turbulence and experiences less resistance compared to traditional turbines.

Efficient Cooking Tools: Alum Daniel Rabkin 98F worked with a rural community in Guatemala to refine a stove design that would reduce firewood consumption and smoke generation, and develop a retained heat cooker and water purifier for use when cooking in the home.


How can grant money be used?

Award funds can be used to purchase raw materials and equipment necessary to create the proposed technological solutions, including metals; plastics; wood; soft goods items; digital and electronics components; design software; field-testing materials; and minor fabrication tooling. The review committee will also consider proposals for support of costs associated with research, project field-testing, travel, and conference presentation. Projects that are designed to raise awareness or teach about sustainable and alternative energy technologies (such as through the development of curricula for schools) will also be considered. In special cases, the committee will consider granting living stipends, as in the case of a student wishing to do a summer internship project, or a recent graduate wishing to develop further her or his senior thesis project. The average award will be $500, but proposals for up to several thousand dollars will be considered annually.

In the spirit of promoting independent inventors, each student or alumni awardee will have full ownership of his or her own intellectual property. Should an awardee’s work someday generate financial profit, the awardee is encouraged to consider contributing to the fund so that others can benefit from future grant awards.

Who can apply for a Harkness Grant?

Undergraduate students and alumni from Hampshire and the other Five College institutions are eligible to apply. Projects that are intended to fulfill students’ academic requirements (such as Divisional work and independent studies) as well as non-academic projects will be considered. Applicants are encouraged to have a faculty mentor involved in their projects. The fund is specifically intended to support invention and innovative projects in areas of sustainable or renewable energy systems. Projects that serve the community will have priority in the review process.


How do I apply?

To apply for a grant, students and alumni should submit proposals describing their work to The proposal should include a description of the project and why it is innovative, as well as a proposed timeline for its development and a comprehensive budget.


What are the deadlines?

There are no deadlines. The fund’s yearly cycle begins in September at the start of each academic year. Grants are awarded on a rolling basis, with proposals reviewed as they are received. The review committee will continue to make awards until the year’s allotment has been distributed. Applicants will received notice of the status of their proposals within approximately four weeks of submission.


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