A student team’s work with military engineers may help soldiers be more efficient, improve public safety, and make bow hunting more humane.

Entrepreneurship majors Austin McMillan of Muncie, Andrew Herron of Noblesville, and Ryan McBride of New Palestine, ’12, are developing and commercializing highly accurate automatically adjusting sight devices patented by the Navy, thanks to Military 2 Market (M2M), a partnership between Ball State’s entrepreneurship program and the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, in southern Indiana.

The device automatically adjusts the sites for bows and rifle, eliminating the guesswork of how much a bullet or arrow drops over a certain distance. The students believe the automatic sight adjuster will significantly increase a weapon’s accuracy.

“This will be a major advance in technology for these industries,” Herron said. “Arming each infantryman with such a device could transform the entire unit into a team of sharpshooters.”

The same technology applied to firearm- and bow-hunting markets could transform the sport, says McMillan, a deer hunter.

“A hunter would immediately be more accurate, making hunting far more humane,” he says. “Increasing accuracy reduces the risk of a non-lethal shot that only wounds the animal.”

By using new military technologies to innovate existing products, the aspiring entrepreneurs plan to capitalize on two markets that have unmet demands. The Solara—designed for firearms—will initially target the military and first responders markets in the U.S. The Silvanus bow sight will be introduced to the archery hunting market in North America.

Military Partnership

M2M is a result of the military’s desire to commercialize patents developed by engineers at Crane as well as at various installations around the world. During the process, students receive coaching from Navy technology transfer officers, laboratory scientists, and entrepreneurship faculty.

“The partnership has flourished since it started in 2011, providing our students with the opportunity to work with some of the best scientists and engineers America has to offer,” says Michael Goldsby, the Entrepreneurship Center’s executive director and Stoops distinguished professor of entrepreneurship. The nationally recognized center is part of the Miller College of Business.

“It has been incredible to go down to Crane and work one-on-one with the engineers on a regular basis,” McMillan says. “From the start, we knew this would be a very cool senior year.”

Senior Sweat

Like other M2M participants, McMillan, Herron, and McBride anticipate creating their startup firearm and archery accessories company, MHM Technologies, as soon as they complete their bachelor’s degree requirements and bringing products to market in 2013. The trio submitted a business plan as part of the entrepreneurship program’s E-Day (Evaluation Day) in the spring.

A key feature of E-Day is a final pass-or-fail review that requires seniors to put their degrees on the line when their business plans are scrutinized by a group of top business leaders just days before graduation. If they pass, students go on to receive their diplomas. Failure requires them to return the next year with a new or revised plan or to seek another degree.

“It has been incredible to go down to Crane and work one-on-one with the engineers on a regular basis. From the start, we knew this would be a very cool senior year.”

—Austin McMillan (center),’12, Entrepreneurship