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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Think Big: Rensselaer Polytechnic Students Recognized for Innovative Ideas to "Change the World"

May 3, 2011

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 Rappleyea ’13.
  • 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 Jayawardena ’13.
  • 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 Sun ’12.
  • 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 ’11.
  • 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 Atlanta.

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