Change the World Challenge – Winners Announcement

Eight Innovative Ideas to “Change the World” Earn Student Teams Recognition and Cash Awards in Spring 2010 Competition.

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

An easier–to–use thermometer for the elderly, a bio–ethanol fuel cell system powered by campus food waste, a lighter–than–air, high altitude wind turbine system and a digital notepad that acts like paper are among the winning ideas in the spring 2010 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. Additionally, patent application assistance is 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.” Chernow said. Many winners have taken full advantage of the programs 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 2010 semester, 175 undergraduate and graduate students from Rensselaer’s five schools submitted more than 40 proposals to the contest. Twenty–one students – representing 8 teams – 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 team entry considered to be the “best of the best” from all of the winning entries from the Fall 2009 and Spring 2010 competitions, according to Rob Chernow, vice provost for entrepreneurship at Rensselaer and chair of the competition.

The winning ideas for the spring 2010 competition cover a range of innovative devices and technologies. “In this spring’s competition, the judges were also challenged and very impressed with the high quality of all of the entries. They were all interesting ideas with potential for success and those selected for prizes were typically more developed and provided well–articulated and visually interesting descriptions,” said Chernow.

  • Thermomitter, a silicone mitt with a built–in digital thermometer, designed to make it easy for the elderly to take and read their own temperature. Designed by undergraduates Peter Carnevale ’12, John Knight ’12, Katie Malysa ’12 and Alissa Russin ’12.
  • A self–contained, Bio–Ethanol Fuel System capable of composting campus food waste to generate electric power and heat without any user interaction. Designed by undergraduate S. Kat Foley ’10, and graduate students Ryan Gallagher ’10, Dave Lesperance ’10 and Jake Pyzza ’13.
  • The HAWC (high altitude wind capture) System uses a small blimp to place power–generating wind turbines high in the air without cranes or towers. Designed by undergraduates Andrew Cunningham ’10, Charlie Driscoll ’10, Samuel Notaro ’10 and Steve Polansky ’10.
  • InfiniPad feels like paper to write on, but draws digitally for easy editing, sharing between students and teachers, collaboration and feedback. Designed by Sarah Lee ’10, Mark Lessel ’10, and Keith Thompson ’10.
  • GeniusWrite is a special pen that reuses paper instead of recycling it. It displays and stores information with photo–sensitive paper and has the ability to scan information and print using UV light printing technology. Designed by undergraduate Xu Sun ’13.
  • The Onboard System Mechanic saves gas, money and maybe the world as a fuel injected automobile electronic control unit that monitors a vehicle’s sub systems to diagnose performance problems to increase reliability and to decrease polluting emissions. Designed by Ricky Willems ’11.
  • The Smart Sanitary Faucet promotes proper handwashing by integrating a water faucet, soap dispenser and timer all into one device that times out each step for food service kitchens, schools, public places and medical exam rooms. Designed by Ryan Clapp ’10.
  • The NEROH-DSAL system creates a self–sustainable, low-cost water desalination method that harnesses solar energy for power and condensation collection to separate salt to provide a day’s worth of water for millions of families without access to a fresh water supply. Designed by Andrew Briggs and Catie Gould.

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 found 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.