Tech Students Invent

Georgia Tech InVenture Prize

Tech Students Invent

InVenture Prize attracts young entrepreneurs and sparks students’ imagination

Imagine a nightshirt that could help the nearly 18 million Americans living with sleep apnea get a better night of rest. Maybe you would redesign crutches so they don’t cause as much pain in underarms and wrists. Or you could create an inexpensive, mobile solution to help nearly 2.6 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to hygienic bathrooms.

These are just some of the inventions Georgia Tech students developed through the InVenture Prize, an annual contest that rewards students for big innovations that aim to solve the world’s problems.

Nearly 560 students signed up for this year’s contest – the largest ever. Over the course of several months the group was narrowed to six teams, who competed in the finale on March 26.

The Winners

An inexpensive, mobile solution to help nearly 2.6 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to hygienic bathrooms won the 2014 InVenture Prize. View the complete list of winners.

The finalists
  • The Better Walk Crutch is designed to help people get around more confidently and comfortably while going through rehabilitation for lower leg injury.
  • The Enlighten Music Trainer eliminates the frustration some people feel when learning to play the guitar. Songs are placed in an SD card slot and the trainer programs notes to show on LED lights on a removable sleeve.
  • Sleepwell Sleepwear by team Lights Out is a nightshirt that reduces snoring and symptoms of sleep apnea. The garment senses when people are sleeping on their backs and uses automated positional therapy to move them to a healthier position.
  • The Safi Choo Toilet from team Sanivation is a safe, cleaner way of using a toilet to replace the pit latrines often found in the developing world and refugee camps.
  • The Sucette Smart Soother is a modernized pacifier designed to fit more naturally with a baby’s mouth and growing dental structure.
  • Upsadazy is a baby stroller that safely and quickly climbs stairs without the risk of tipping over and harming the child.

InVenture isn’t some glorified science fair. First-place comes with a $20,000 prize and a spot this summer in Flashpoint, Georgia Tech’s startup accelerator program. Second place goes home with $10,000.

Both the first and second place finishers receive free U.S. patent filings by Georgia Tech’s Office of Technology Licensing.

A $5,000 People’s Choice Award went to the fans’ favorite invention. Votes were cast by text messaging during the finale, which aired live on Georgia Public Broadcasting.

A Lesson in Entrepreneurship

InVenture gives student competitors an experience like the kind lived by entrepreneurs in the marketplace. The technical aspects of engineering new products come naturally for many students, but the business savvy needed to bring them to market can be lacking.

“We’re all so used to our technical engineering classes that it was a change of pace to step into the real world,” said Michael Duke, a biomedical engineering major and a member of team Lights Out.

“We learned how to adapt our ideas based on what people and experts really needed,” said Duke, adding the team is working closely with the Emory Sleep Center.

“We had to find out what parents really wanted, what they really needed and how much they would be willing to pay,” said Charlsie Lemons, a mechanical engineering major. “We sent out surveys to two parent forums asking for feedback.”Team Upsadazy came up with their idea of a new stroller after watching a mother struggle to maneuver the stairs. Since none of the four members of the team has children, they needed to interview parents.

Members of team Better Walk talked with more than 50 physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons, and other experts about their redesigned crutch.

Partha Unnava, a biomedical engineering major, came up with the idea after he broke his ankle in the summer of 2012 and spent most of the summer on crutches. The team has worked on the design for more than a year and has raised more than $150,000.

InVenture is starting to expand beyond Georgia Tech. The University of Florida held its own version earlier this year, and other colleges have requested more information.

At Tech, the teams have spent months working on prototypes, reading research and medical journals, and interviewing experts, patients, and others who could benefit from the inventions.

The teams have supported one another, offering feedback on presentations.

“All the inventions are trying to make an impact on the world,” said Jasmine Burton, an industrial design major and a member of team Sanivation. “We’re proof that innovation can come from anyone at any time, even if you’re a student.”

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Writer: Laura Diamond
Video: Georgia Public Broadcasting
Graphics: Rhys Black