Before Jonathan Kuniholm, a marine re­­serv­­ist, was shipped off to the war in Iraq, he and three friends formed a research and development firm they called Tackle Design. The four men had worked together in an industrial engineering class at North Carolina State University (N.C.S.U.), and, filled with youthful enthusiasm, they hoped their fledgling company could survive on jobs that were interesting and beneficial rather than simply moneymaking. They worked with inventors—making prototypes for a plastic lock to keep shoestrings tied and a fishing lure with an embedded LED—as well as with medical engineers from their alma mater, who were developing tools for minimally invasive robotic surgery.