April 12, 2016

The Lemelson-MIT Program today announced the winners of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize, a nationwide search for the most inventive college students. The Lemelson-MIT Program awarded $90,000 in prizes to collegiate inventors. Each winning team of undergraduates received $10,000, and each graduate student winner received $15,000. The winners of this year’s competition were selected from a diverse and highly-competitive applicant pool of students from 77 colleges and universities across the country.

“This year’s Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winners have outstanding portfolios of inventive work.” said Michael Cima, faculty director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. “Their passion for solving problems through invention is matched by their commitment to mentoring the next generation of inventors.”

The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize is a national collegiate invention prize program, supported by The Lemelson Foundation, serving as a catalyst for burgeoning young inventors.

“My husband Jerome always felt passionate about the potential of young collegiate inventors,” said Dorothy Lemelson, chairman of The Lemelson Foundation. “The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize has evolved over the past 20 years to encourage and inspire students around the country to develop their ideas into viable products.” 

2016 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Winners

The “Cure it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize: Rewarding students working on technology-based inventions that can improve health care.

  • Catalin Voss, Stanford University,
    $15,000 Lemelson-MIT “Cure it!” Graduate Winner:
    Catalin Voss, Photo courtesy of Stanford UniversityCatalin Voss, Photo courtesy of Stanford University
    Voss developed the Autism Glass Project, an emotional learning aid for children with autism based on smart glasses like Google Glass. An individual with autism puts on the glasses and they automatically recognize emotions in other people's faces using an artificial intelligence system. They then give intelligent social cues to the child right then and there via a heads-up display or audio.
  • Jason Kang, Katherine Jin and Kevin Tyan, Columbia University, $10,000 Lemelson-MIT “Cure it!” Undergraduate Team Winner: Kevin Tyan, Jason Kang, Katherine Jin, Photo courtesy Columbia Engineering/Tim Lee PhotographersKevin Tyan, Jason Kang, Katherine Jin, Photo courtesy Columbia Engineering/Tim Lee PhotographersKang, studying in Columbia’s School of Engineering, along with Columbia College students, Jin and Tyan, formed a startup, Kinnos Inc., to develop Highlight, an easy-to-use powdered additive that can be mixed into disinfectant solutions to make them colorized and highly visible. Their invention allows global health care workers to fully cover contaminated surfaces with disinfectant solutions, eliminating gaps in coverage and reducing evaporation rates. Highlight improves the process of infectious disease decontamination by directly addressing the problems of human error and empowering health care workers to protect themselves and the general public.

The “Drive it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize: Rewarding students working on technology-based inventions that can improve transportation.

  • Dan Dorsch, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, $15,000 Lemelson-MIT “Drive it!” Graduate Winner: Dan Dorsch, Photo courtesy of the Lemelson-MIT ProgramDan Dorsch, Photo courtesy of the Lemelson-MIT ProgramDorsch invented the world’s first lightweight clutchless transmission for high-performance hybrid vehicles, which are designed to match the performance of existing supercars while achieving higher efficiency. Dorsch has partnered with a leading performance car company to refine his transmission technology for real-world applications. Dorsch believes it will be straightforward for other automotive manufacturers to adapt his technology for their vehicles, creating greater efficiency and performance in mass consumer models.

 

 

The “Eat it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize: Rewarding students working on technology-based inventions that can improve food and agriculture.

  • Heather Hava, University of Colorado Boulder,
    $15,000 Lemelson-MIT “Eat it!” Graduate Winner:
    Heather Hava, Photo courtesy of Alex PilnickHeather Hava, Photo courtesy of Alex Pilnick
    Hava, a self-proclaimed “space gardener,” has focused her studies in bioastronautics, and specifically inventing ways to grow food in space and other extreme environments. She developed robots that can garden in space and patented a geodesic dome structure for on Earth application including use for disaster relief or sustainable housing. Her invention SmartPot (SPOT), a smart growth chamber, can be teleoperated to help astronauts grow fruits and vegetables during space exploration missions. AgQ, also developed by Hava, is software that will process data from SPOT and provide feedback to the robot for proper plant care.

 

The “Use it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize: Rewarding students working on technology-based inventions that can improve consumer devices.

  • Achuta Kadambi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
    $15,000 Lemelson-MIT “Use it!” Graduate Winner:

    Kadambi designs advanced cameras that acquire superhuman
    imagery -- he believes that the camera Achuta Kadambi, Photo courtesy of the Lemelson-MIT ProgramAchuta Kadambi, Photo courtesy of the Lemelson-MIT Programshould exceed rather than mimic the human eye.  His inventions include ultrafast optics to film light in motion (“Nanophotography”) and an imaging system that relates nearly imperceptible rotations of light with 3D models of the world (“Polarized 3D”). At the intersection of electrical engineering, computer science and optics, Kadambi’s work has applications that span medical imaging, robotic navigation and virtual reality.
  • Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi, University of Washington, $10,000 Lemelson-MIT “Use it!” Undergraduate Winners:
    Pryor and Azodi created SignAloud, Thomas Pryor (left) and Navid Azodi (right), Photo courtesy of Conrado Tapado/Univ. of Washington, CoMotionThomas Pryor (left) and Navid Azodi (right), Photo courtesy of Conrado Tapado/Univ. of Washington, CoMotiona pair of gloves that have the potential to revolutionize communication for people who cannot speak or hear. SignAloud gloves contain an array of sensors that measure hand position and movement, sending sensor data via Bluetooth for translation from American Sign Language to spoken words instantly. The gloves are lightweight, compact, and worn on the hands, but ergonomic enough to use as an everyday accessory, similar to contact lenses or a hearing aid.

 

Lemelson-MIT Student Prize applicants were evaluated by screening committees with expertise in the invention categories as well as a national judging panel of industry leaders – who also select the annual $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize winner. Screeners and judges assessed candidates on breadth and depth of inventiveness and creativity; potential for societal benefit and economic commercial success; community and environmental systems impact; and experience as a role model for youth.

Students interested in applying for the 2017 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize can find more information here. The Lemelson-MIT Program is also seeking partners with interest in sponsoring the competition, in addition to supporting the execution and scaling into new categories. Interested sponsors can find more information here.