Three Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Student Teams Earn Top Honors for Entrepreneurial Ideas


Media Relations

March 27, 2013

Three Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Student Teams Earn Top Honors for Entrepreneurial Ideas

Class of ’51 Entrepreneurship Award Supports Student Innovation To Improve the Quality of Life for People and the Environment

Student creativity and entrepreneurial thinking to make bridges and buildings more resilient to earthquakes, aid bone regeneration, and enhance the online shopping experience have received funding from the Rensselaer Class of ’51 Entrepreneurship Fund. The fund was established over a decade ago to help transform undergraduate and graduate student ideas into successful ventures. The competition is sponsored by the Office of Entrepreneurship at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

One of the most active, generous, and supportive alumni groups at Rensselaer, the Class of ’51 sponsors an annual competition to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to pursue early development of entrepreneurial ideas.

“Each year, the quality and potential of the student entries get better and better,” said Rob Chernow vice provost for entrepreneurship at Rensselaer and chair of the competition. “The judging for this year was very close overall and several other great ideas were submitted. The winners stood out in how thoroughly their concepts were developed and how well they were presented.”

Judged from the entries of nearly 50 students, three ideas were awarded prizes for their problem solving, uniqueness, and feasibility. A grant of up to $5,000 is awarded each year to a winning individual or teams.

Rotation-Based Mechanical Adaptive Passive DeviceNavid Attary has created a seismic protection device to boost the resiliency of bridges and buildings to earthquakes. His innovation, which uses a new and novel method to dissipate the destructive forces of earthquakes, could help save countless lives and prevent billions of dollars of damage around the world every year. Attary, a student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, earned the top spot and was awarded $2,500 for his innovative technology.

Attary’s solution to this problem was to create a new type of seismic protection device that adapts to different types of movement, but requires no electricity and no expensive maintenance. He invented a rotation-based mechanical adaptive passive device, or RB-MAP, which is comprised of a meticulously engineered collection of gears, pre-torqued springs, and damping devices that can be installed underneath a bridge or inside the wall of a building. The RB-MAP takes advantage of a concept called “negative stiffness” to reduce the earthquake energy transferred into the structure. The RB-MAP can passively adapt to different types of earthquakes, as specific movements will cause selective engagement or disengagement of the gears and the damping device.

Initial testing has shown that Attary’s RB-MAP can reduce the force in structures during earthquakes by up to 60 percent. The device is inexpensive to build, and small and compact enough to be practical to install inside structures. Overall, Attary’s patent-pending technology could open the door to a new generation of seismic protection devices that help save lives and minimize destruction during earthquakes.

Recently, Attary was also one of three finalists recognized for the 2013 $30,000 Lemelson-Rensselaer Student Prize. In addition, last year he was named one of 10 winners of the 2012 Rensselaer “Change the World Challenge” competition, and was also named a winner of the 2012 Rensselaer Founders Award of Excellence, which recognizes students who “embody qualities of creativity, discovery, leadership, and the values of pride and responsibility at Rensselaer.” The Founders Award is one of the highest honors bestowed to students at Rensselaer. To read more about the Navid Attary, visit:

Bone Regeneration Biomolecular ProcessingIs there a simpler way to advance the bone defect/fracture-healing process? The patent-pending technological advancement of student Atharva Poundarik ’13, a biomedical engineering major, is intended to replace current fracture-healing products, which lack the structure and composition of bone. It can be administered via minimally invasive procedures in a variety of spinal, foot, ankle, and dental applications.

According to Poundarik’s research, patient benefits would include faster and better cell-friendly healing accompanied by a significant reduction in post-surgery health-care costs.

In pursuing this process, Poundarik is exploring a sequential materials and fabrication approach that better mimics bone mineral formation seen in nature. This biomimetic material design and biomolecular process adds a new topographical/compositional dimension at the nanostructural level to enhance bone substitution in bone defect/fracture healing. Poundarik was selected for a $1,500 award toward the further development of his innovation.

Virtual Product DemosInterested in making your online shopping experience much easier? There’s an app for that! Michael Fede ’13, a senior majoring in aerospace engineering, is working on an application for computers and smart phones that enables individuals to see a virtual preview of a product in its intended environment. The software solution combines video and the virtual insertion of a product in a room’s 3-D geometry. According to Fede, the application would allow users to fully immerse themselves with their potential purchases to greatly enhance the certainty and outcome of an online shopping experience.

Fede says that the visualization tool combines the features and benefits of several existing software, cloud computing, and smartphone technologies. It is expected to make it possible to give consumers a true idea of how a physical product would fit and appear in their living space, even with the ability to “walk around” it as if it were actually there. In addition, the app would create new value as a marketing tool for companies who currently have difficulty demonstrating their products to online shoppers. Fede was awarded third-place honors in the competition and a $1,000 prize for his novel approach.

“This year’s winning ideas demonstrate concepts that the students have been evolving and improving at each step of development,” said Chernow, “They have moved their concepts much closer to the reality of commercialization. Our campus resources are invaluable and can provide experienced, knowledgeable guidance to foster further development to help our students move their ideas into the marketplace.”

To qualify for the Class of ’51 awards, entrants must articulate a clear statement – also known as an elevator pitch – of the opportunity by answering the questions: What is the problem you are solving? How are you solving it? Who are you solving it for? And, how does your idea differentiate from already existing solutions? They must provide enough details to demonstrate the solution is feasible, include diagrams or visuals to illustrate their ideas, and explain how the winning funds will be used for further development.

The competition is one of three endowed funds established in 2000 by the Class of ’51, in honor of their 50th Reunion year. “This commitment on the part of the Class of ’51 is an outstanding example of the collective foresight of a dedicated group of alumni and Rensselaer is grateful for their generosity toward future generations of students and faculty,” Chernow said.

For more information about the Office of Entrepreneurship, visit:


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Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit