Rensselaer Polytechnic Graduate Students Awarded “Best-of-the-Best” Prize for Innovative Idea to “Change the World.”
The Change the World Challenge is a twice yearly competition open to all current RPI students. The Challenge encourages the development of innovative ideas with the potential of achieving the Rensselaer goal of changing the world. Sponsored by the Office of Entrepreneurship, individual students and teams submit big ideas focused on addressing energy, water, trust, safety or security areas.
Each semester, up to 10 ideas that can improve the human condition are recognized as winners and share in a prize pool of $10,000. In 2010, an added $5,000 “Best of” award was specially created to accelerate the progress of a fall or spring team that demonstrated a strong commitment and clear momentum in pursuing the commercialization of its idea.
The 2012 Best-of-the-Best award was presented to Rensselaer graduate students Jonathan Ashdown ’12 (Ph.D. Electrical Engineering candidate), Kyle Wilt ’12 (Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering candidate) and Anthony DeMaio ’12 (MBA candidate) for their breakthrough technology UltraSoniComm™. The innovation overcomes the limitations of conventional wireless capabilities by using ultrasound to transmit data and deliver power wirelessly through solid metal walls for a variety of critical potential applications in hard-to-reach environments.
“Selecting a “Best of” winner from the submissions of several 2011-2012 Change the World Challenge winners was made difficult by the quality, potential, progress and inventiveness of a dozen well-developed entries, said Rob Chernow, vice provost for entrepreneurship and chair of the competition. “In addition to the creativity in our students’ ideas, we are impressed with how many are continuing to evolve and expand their innovations.”
About the technology.
For anyone who has ever lost a cell phone signal in a tunnel, subway or elevator, the concept of the “Best of” wireless technology is obvious. However, its potential applications and outcomes go much further in helping to solve important challenges. Among three of the uses proposed by the inventors are: a sensor for monitoring incoming torpedoes on the outside of a ship or submarine by detecting its approach through the hull; efficiently monitoring oil rig equipment on the ocean floor, a pipeline or refinery to prevent or fix dangerous leaks similar to the Deepwater Horizon disaster; or, the ability to monitor the interior of nuclear reactor vessels to preclude meltdown threats created by natural disasters like the recent tsunami in Japan.
The technology’s capability to power, collect and store data with through-wall signal processing techniques and communication is revolutionary in comparison to current methodologies. It is expected to be easy to install with reduced down-time and it does not compromise the structural integrity of the metallic wall. The possible outcomes could result in significant saving of lives, time, and reputations, along with billions of dollars in damages and remediation.
About the technology.
“The team has demonstrated a high level of commitment in moving their technology from concept to reality. Their entrepreneurial progress in advancing their idea and their company on research, development and marketing fronts has positioned them for continued success,” said Chernow. Several companies have expressed interest in this promising technology including British Petroleum, Advanced Acoustic Concepts, Rolls Royce Naval Marine, Siemens and GE.
Ashdown and Wilt have been collaborating as RPI graduate students and working on this project since 2007. Jonathan is a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering with a concentration in communication systems and signal processing. Kyle is a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering with a concentration in vibrations and ultrasonics. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of the problem, they collaborated initially to develop a low rate, low power two-way ultrasonic through-wall communication system. More recently, Jonathan developed a method for high-rate ultrasonic through-wall communication using multiple channel and crosstalk cancellation techniques and Kyle engineered a system to transmit over 100 Watts through the wall without batteries by using ultrasound. Combining their inventions to allow for audio and visual communication to “see and hear” through thick metallic barriers, they have successfully passed through the proof of concept and refined prototype stages. In the Fall of 2011, Anthony DeMaio joined the team to help explore the business implications of this breakthrough technology. Anthony’s concentration is in global enterprise management.
“The Change the World Challenge helped greatly in the commercialization of this idea. The funds generated from the Challenge enabled us to move forward to the beta test to be successful in validating this technology in a real world setting,” said Jonathan Ashdown.
Ashdown, from Schuylerville, NY, earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Rensselaer in 2006 and a Masters in 2008. Wilt is from Taborton, NY and earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer in 2006. DeMaio is from Manchester, CT and earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Connecticut in 2010.
Adept Advancements has also won and placed in several business plan competitions.
About The Change the World Challenge.
The Change the World Challenge was created by Rensselaer alumnus, serial entrepreneur inventor, filmmaker and venture capitalist, 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, Inc. He has started a number of other companies and organizations and is currently co-founder and managing director of Avego Corporation. He was selected as the 2011 William F. Glaser ’53 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year.
May 11, 2012
The entry deadline for Fall 2010 entries will be announced in late August.
The awards for Spring 2010 were declared on April 22, 2010. These are being sponsored by Rensselaer alumnus; business and social entrepreneur, Sean O'Sullivan. To read more about Sean O'Sullivan please click here.