5 Student Teams’ Innovations Win 2021 Collegiate Inventors Competition
A glimpse into the future of American innovation and emerging technological trends from the nation’s brightest young innovators — from a robot used in search and rescue situations to an accessible COVID-19 testing solution — were recognized and honored this week at the 2021 Collegiate Inventors Competition®, an annual competition for college and university students and their advisers.
Finalist teams (six Undergraduate and six Graduate), consisting of 20 students from 13 colleges and universities across the United States, presented their inventions in a virtual format to an esteemed panel of final-round judges composed of the most influential inventors and innovation experts in the nation — National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) Inductees and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) officials.
“As our world’s challenges continue to grow in complexity, we increasingly need to look to the next generation of innovators to meet these problems head on,” said NIHF CEO Michael Oister. “We are proud to recognize and celebrate this latest group of collegiate inventors who are committed to creating a better future for us all.”
Established in 1990, the Collegiate Inventors Competition is a program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and is sponsored by the USPTO and Arrow Electronics (Arrow Electronics People’s Choice Award). In addition to cash awards, the winning teams also receive an opportunity to meet with a NIHF Inductee for mentorship and advice, and a USPTO Patent Acceleration Certificate.
FIRST-PLACE WINNERS ($10,000 PRIZE)
EarFlow, Harvard University
Team Member: Eva Cai; Advisers: Samir Mitragotri, Aaron Remenschneider
An easier treatment for healthier ears: Otitis media, or middle ear infection, is a painful condition triggering excess fluid production in the middle ear, affecting the eardrum by altering its vibration and hearing levels. It is especially common in young children. EarFlow is a drug delivery device that is placed on a patient’s eardrum to deliver dexamethasone, a steroid, and ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic, to the middle ear to treat otitis media. Placing the device takes less than five minutes in a doctor’s office and does not require general anesthesia. With low cytotoxicity and low risk of hearing damage, EarFlow offers a vast improvement from standard treatments for recurrent infections.
SolarClear, Stony Brook University
Team Member: Shrish Patel; Adviser: Alexander Orlov
A better solar panel cleaning solution: Dust storms, especially in the Western United States, Middle East and North Africa, are a significant problem for large-scale solar power plants. While solutions exist to clean them off, they are impractical and expensive. Cleaning a typical utility-scale solar installation requires a staggering 600,000 to 1 million gallons of potable water. SolarClear addresses this problem by using autonomous waterless cleaning technology that is both significantly more effective and efficient compared to existing technologies. Additionally, the unique design of the electrodes that are used in the system makes SolarClear economically viable for utility-scale installation in the desert.
RUNNER-UP WINNERS ($5,000 PRIZE)
Augment Health Bladder Management System, Georgia Institute of Technology
Team Members: Stephen Kalinsky, Jared Meyers; Adviser: Martin Jacobson
Smart monitoring that can empower millions: Over 6.5 million people in the United States alone have limited bladder sensation. They cannot feel when their bladder is full and often suffer incontinence. Many use incontinence products or a catheter and collection bag. Often, these solutions lead to urinary tract infections and are costly, difficult and embarrassing to manage. The Augment Health Bladder Management System is a noninvasive connection between a catheter and catheter valve that monitors the bladder and tells the user when it is full via their smart device, eliminating the need for obtrusive incontinence products. This invention has the potential to reduce costs and infections, restore dignity and offer better quality of care.
VirSENSE, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Team Member: Maha Alafeef; Adviser: Dipanjan Pan
An accessible COVID-19 testing solution: To manage and ultimately control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, rapid, inexpensive and easily deployable testing is crucial. It’s for this reason that Maha Alafeef created VirSENSE, a rapid test for COVID-19 that users can administer entirely at home. Using an electrochemical biosensor paired with an electrical reader, the test screens for active cases and is over 98% accurate. Thanks to the technology that VirSENSE is using, individuals are able to determine in real time if they are COVID-19 positive, even before their bodies develop a detectable antibody response.
ARROW ELECTRONICS PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD WINNER ($2,000 PRIZE)
Firebot, University of Texas at Austin
Team Member: Siddharth Thakur; Adviser: Roland Fields
Navigating safer search and rescue operations in fire situations: Firefighters face life-threatening situations while searching for human life in structural fires, leading to 33 fatalities in the past decade and 10,575 injuries in 2019 alone. Firebot, a thermally insulated, wirelessly controlled, obstacle-climbing robot, locates victims without requiring firefighters to enter burning buildings. Firefighters can deploy Firebot near an entrance and remotely steer it using a joystick and laptop displaying live video, thermal imagery and sensor data, which warns of potentially hazardous situations. Firefighters can use a two-way speaker to lead conscious victims out, or a siren and GPS map to allow them to quickly find and rescue unconscious victims, helping to mitigate risks and save lives.