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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Rensselaer Students Recognized for Innovative Ideas To "Change the World"

December 7, 2009

Rensselaer Students Recognized for Innovative Ideas To "Change the World"

A floor-mounted cane that may help the elderly avoid falls, an inexpensive portable device that can separate gold and silt without the use of chemicals, an electronic prescription pad, and a technique to manufacture environmentally safe plush animals on a large scale are among the winning ideas in the fall 2009 Change the World Challenge contest at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Created to support entrepreneurship education and stimulate ideas to improve the human condition, the annual competition awards $1,000 cash prizes to students for developing innovative ideas and inventions with the potential to make the world a better place. Additionally, substantial financial support and patent application assistance is given to winning student proposals considered to be the “best of the best,” according to Rob Chernow, vice provost for entrepreneurship at Rensselaer and chair of the competition.

“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,” Chernow said. Many winners have taken full advantage of the program’s patent support to further develop their ideas and technologies.

Each semester, students select a topic from a list of challenges with the potential to improve human life, and offer an innovative and sustainable solution to that challenge. Examples of challenges include improving safety and security, and addressing health issues. Submissions are judged on both novelty and feasibility, and up to 10 entries each semester are selected to receive awards.

This semester, 158 undergraduate and graduate students from Rensselaer’s five schools submitted 51 proposals to the contest. Twenty-five students — representing nine teams — were named winners of the competition, and will receive funding to pursue provisional patents in addition to the cash prize. The winning ideas cover a range of innovative devices and technologies.  

A simple system using a cane and a floor-mounted docking station to help the elderly, particularly those with poor balance, avoid falls. Created by Sam Feldman, Tom Holland, Nathan Porteous, Bryan Fonder, Katie Malysa, and Alissa Russin due to the fact that one in three Americans over 65 years of age falls each year.

  • A specially designed, thinner bicycle helmet with state-of-the-art built-in safeguards to encourage more cyclists to wear helmets. The design was created by Jakob Parslov.
  • Thirty percent of all mercury emissions, one of the top 10 pollutants in the world, comes from small-scale gold mining outside of the United States. Using an inexpensive, simple, and portable device that can separate gold and silt as efficiently as mercury without the use of chemicals may be beneficial to the environment. Created by Jakob Parslov, Laerke Holstebroe, Jeanne Lonstrup, Hans Christian  Stentoft, and Trine Duelund Torstved.
  • An electronic device similar to a prescription pad that allows doctors to select the prescription and dose, and then print out the prescription. Additional safeguards are also built into the device to reduce medication errors. Created by Sarah DiNovo.
  • An inexpensive, convenient wrist band that accurately measures the extent of excercising along a number of key variables while a person is involved in physical activity. Created by Wen Chen and Ke Xia.
  • The market for stuffed animals is large and ranges from small children to adults. Christina Laskowski, Todd Snelson, and Saadia Safir have applied manufacturing sustainability practices to the plush stuffed animal market and have demonstrated the ability to manufacture environmentally safe stuffed animals on large scale.
  • Seventy-five percent of deaths due to landmines involve civilians, with nearly 60 percent involving children under the age of 15. Stephen Spehalski, Andrew Nelson, Megan McNeil, Brendan  Smith, and Andrew Krushelnyski have created an inexpensive mechanical roller device for landmine removal, specifically targeted at the removal of anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines that are triggered by applying pressure.
  • More than 11 million people in the United States cannot speak English. Ashley P. Aust has created a simple device that may help individuals to overcome language barriers. The device is a handheld augmentive and alternative communication device (AAC) that utilizes touch screen and computing software that can be used at hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies.
  • Up to 30 percent of drug and various medicines (e.g. eye drops) have a period of optimal usage. Created by Lars Elmgreen, a multi-layered polymer sticker will indicate when a product has expired. The technology also has potential applications in the food industry.

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 the first president of the software firm MapInfo Corp. He has started a number of other companies and organizations, including JumpStart International, an engineering humanitarian organization headquartered in Atlanta.

Contact: Jessica Otitigbe
Phone: (518) 276-6050