Change the World Challenge – Winners Announcement

Nine innovative Ideas to “Change the World” earn students recognition and cash awards in spring 2011 competition.

Office of E*ntrepreneurship’s Change the World Challenge highlights student creativity and draws technology, social and business ideas from across the campus.

A credit card water filter, a novel approach to treating anorexia, affordable lighting for the rural poor and a stress prevention smart phone app for college students are just a few among the winning ideas in the Spring 2011 Change the World Challenge at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Created to support entrepreneurship education and stimulate ideas to improve the human condition, the twice–yearly competition shares a $10,000 cash prize pool that is shared by the winning students and student teams who develop innovative ideas and inventions with the potential to make the world a better place.

“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.

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 Rensselaer’s schools campus-wide 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 awarded to the one entry from all the Fall 2010 and Spring 2011 competitions winning entries and considered to be the “best of the best” for further development, according to Chernow.

The winning ideas for the spring 2011 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 met all of the Challenge criteria, were typically more developed and provided well-articulated and visually interesting descriptions,” said Chernow.

  • Credit Card Water Filter – a hand-held device utilizing Total Dissolved Solid testing technology and carbon nanotube mesh to both test and purify water. Lindsey Rappleyea ’13.
  • Ad-mirror–able Recovery – a mirror and computer interface which work together to track progress and employ a unique imaging approach to treat eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa. Meghan Olson ’14.
  • Quality life through quality light – an off–grid lighting/manufacturing system for the rural poor using an LED light linked to photovoltaic charging and the mobile/wireless network to provide a “pay as you need” financing strategy. Natalia Lesniak ’11 and Asiri Jayawardena ’13.
  • Ultra–Eye Cane – a next generation white cane with voice/search communication, GPS, motorized guidance and ultrasonic sensing of potential obstacles. Xu Sun ’12.
  • Collegiate Stress Visualization and Prevention App – a stress monitoring system to track, analyze and advise on the effects of lifestyle decisions on mental health and a range of stress factors. Dina Cecilie Jacobsen ’11 and Maureen Danskin ’11.
  • Geothermally Cooled Dew Collector – an actively cooled dew collection system powered by natural geothermal energy for low-cost, low–maintenance water production in arid environments. Jason King ’13 and Catie Gould ’11.
  • The Braillator – an instantaneous English to Braille translator that fits at the tip of the fingers using scanning to convert text from print, smart phone or computer into Braille displays for the visually impaired and blind. Krista Glanville ’13 and Lucas Lappe ’13.
  • FilterLight – a dual layer bottle/canteen with built–in water filtration and solar-powered light for use in undeveloped countries and outdoor recreation. George Popell ’11.
  • ECO–Pack Cigarette Disposal – a two–compartment, flip–top pack made from recycled materials and providing a place to distinguish and hold cigarette butts reducing some of the annual 1.7 billion pounds of harmful cigarette litter. Shaun Flynn ’14, Austin Pietrobono ’14, Bryan Boyce ’14 and Matthew Rocco ’14.

The Change the World Challenge was created by 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 software firm MapInfo Corp. He has started a number of other companies and organizations, including JumpStart International, an engineering and humanitarian organization.