Think Big: Rensselaer Polytechnic Students Recognized for Innovative Ideas to “Change the World”
Annual Rensselaer Office of Entrepreneurship
Competition Highlights Student Creativity and Draws Technology,
Social, and Business Ideas From Across Campus
A credit card water filter, a novel approach to treating
anorexia, affordable lighting for the rural poor, and a stress
prevention smartphone app for college students are among the
winning ideas in the Spring 2011 Change the World Challenge at
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. On May 5, the Office of
Entrepreneurship will host a celebratory dinner to honor
winners from the fall 2010 and spring 2011 competition. Several
teams plan to showcase their winning ideas.
Created to support entrepreneurship education and stimulate
ideas to improve the human condition, the twice-yearly
competition awards a $10,000 prize that will be shared by the
winning students and student teams who develop innovative ideas
and inventions. Patent application assistance is also given to
winning student proposals.
“The ultimate goal of the competition is to encourage
students to further develop, patent, and fully realize their
winning ideas — to evolve their ideas into life-changing
inventions and technologies,” said Rob Chernow, vice provost
for entrepreneurship at Rensselaer and chair of the
competition. “Many winners have taken full advantage of
the program’s support and several have gone on to win
substantial funding in national and international competitions.
It is clear that there is no limit to the things our students
can come up with. I congratulate this group of competition
winners for their exciting and inspiring ideas, and I look
forward to watching them as they truly change the world.”
Each semester, students select a topic from a range of
challenges with the potential to improve human life, and they
offer an innovative and sustainable solution to that challenge.
Examples of challenges include improving safety and security
and addressing energy, water, or health issues.
In the spring 2011 semester, undergraduate and graduate
students from all five Rensselaer schools submitted proposals
to the contest. Sixteen students — representing nine entries —
were named winners of the competition and will receive funding
to pursue their ideas further.
In early June, an additional $5,000 grand prize will be
awarded to the team entry considered to be the “best of the
best” from all of the winning entries from the fall 2010 and
spring 2011 competitions, according to Chernow.
The winning ideas for the fall competition cover a range of
innovative devices and technologies. “As always, the judges
were challenged and very impressed with the high quality of all
of the entries. There were many interesting ideas with
potential for success and those selected for prizes were
typically more developed and provided well-articulated and
visually interesting descriptions,” Chernow said.
The nine winning ideas:
- Credit Card Water Filter is a hand-held device utilizing
Total Dissolved Solid testing technology and carbon nanotube
mesh to both test and purify water. Created by Lindsey
- Ad-mirror-able Recovery is a mirror and computer
interface that work together to track progress and employ a
unique imaging approach to treat eating disorders such as
anorexia nervosa. Developed by Meghan Olson ’14.
- Quality Life Through Quality Light is an off-grid
lighting and manufacturing system for the rural poor that
uses an LED light linked to photovoltaic charging and the
mobile/wireless network to provide a “pay as you need”
financing strategy. Created by Natalia Lesniak ’11 and Asiri
- Ultra-Eye Cane offers a next-generation white cane with
voice and search communication, GPS, motorized guidance, and
ultrasonic sensing of potential obstacles. Developed by Xu
- Collegiate Stress Visualization and Prevention App is a
stress-monitoring system to track, analyze, and advise on the
effects of lifestyle decisions on mental health and a range
of stress factors. Developed by Dina Cecilie Jacobsen ’11 and
Maureen Danskin ’11.
- Geothermally Cooled Dew Collector is an actively cooled
dew collection system powered by natural geothermal energy
for low-cost, low-maintenance water production in arid
environments. Created by Jason King ’13 and Catie Gould
- The Braillator is an instantaneous English-to-Braille
translator that fits at the tip of the fingers, using
scanning to convert text from print, smartphone, or computer
into Braille displays for the visually impaired and blind.
Created by Krista Glanville ’13 and Lucas Lappe ’13.
- FilterLight is a dual layer bottle/canteen with built-in
water filtration and solar-powered light for use in
undeveloped countries and outdoor recreation. Developed by
George Popell ’11.
- ECO-Pack Cigarette Disposal is a two-compartment,
flip-top pack made from recycled materials, providing a place
to distinguish and hold cigarette butts, reducing some of the
annual 1.7 billion pounds of harmful cigarette litter.
Created by Shaun Flynn ’14, Austin Pietrobono ’14, Bryan
Boyce ’14, and Matthew Rocco ’14.
The Change the World Challenge was created in 2005 by
Rensselaer alumnus and entrepreneur Sean O’Sullivan ’85.
O’Sullivan earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering
from Rensselaer, and was a founder and first president of
software firm MapInfo Corp. He has started a number of other
companies and organizations, including JumpStart International,
an engineering humanitarian organization headquartered in
Contact: Jessica Otitigbe
Phone: (518) 276-6050