Managing Finances

2017 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Awarded to Collegiate Inventors

By Danielle Wirsansky, Florida State University

Founded by inventor Jerome Lemelson and his wife Dorothy, The Lemelson Foundation believes that inventions can help change the world and address the world’s most critical economic and social challenges. The Foundation’s goal is to help “the next generation of inventors and invention-based businesses to flourish.”

In keeping in line with this mission, the foundation funds The Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has done so since 1994. The program specifically “celebrates outstanding inventors and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.”

Each year, The Lemelson-MIT Program offers a Lemelson-MIT Student Prize after an exhaustive nationwide search for “the most inventive college students.” Undergraduate winners earned $10,000 and graduate student winners earned $15,000.

According to a recent press release, Executive Director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, Stephanie Couch said the following.

“The 2017 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winners show exceptional inventiveness and creativity in solving real world problems. Through their outstanding accomplishments and commitment to mentoring younger students, these promising inventors are inspiring a new generation of problem-solvers.”

The winners of the 2017 -MIT Student Prize were just announced in mid-April. There were four different categories for students to compete in including “Drive it!” which looks for technology-based inventions that can advance transportation; “Use it!” which seeks out technology-based inventions that can enhance consumer devices; “Eat it!” which searches for technology-based inventions that can develop food and agriculture; and “Cure it!” which looks for technology-based inventions that can enrich health care.

Winners in the “Drive it!” category included an undergraduate team from Berkley University, Tomás Vega Gálvez and Corten Singer, who created open-source smart add-on systems for wheelchairs, and a graduate student from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tony Tao, who developed a small electric unmanned aerial vehicle that can be folded to the size of a dollar bill and shot out at high speeds and altitudes.

Use It!” category winners included an undergraduate team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comprised of Chandani Doshi, Grace Li, Jessica (Jialin) Shi, Chen (Bonnie) Wang, Charlene Xia and Tania Yu, who created a portable, real-time text to braille converter, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student Apoorva Murarka, who invented an electrostatic transducer that uses a 125 nanometer thick membrane in order to produce high-fidelity sound more efficiently.

In the “Eat It!” category, the undergraduate team winners from the  University of Iowa, Matthew Rooda and Abraham Espinoza, created a product that conducts a real-time health analysis of pigs for farmers while Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student Natasha Wright took second prize for creating a solar-powered desalination system for off-grid water production as well as a usage sensor for household water treatment devices.

Finally, in the “Cure It!” category, the undergraduate team from Stanford University, including Maria Filsinger Interrante, Zachary Rosenthal and Christian Choe, developed novel proteins that can fight superbug bacterial infections. There were two graduate winners in this category including Lisa Tostanoski of the University of Maryland, who developed biomaterials-based strategies to combat autoimmune diseases, and Katy Olesnavage of Massachusetts Institute of Technology who came up with a method to design a better prosthetic foot.

In the same press release, Dorothy Lemelson, Lemelson Foundation chair, had this to say about the winners: “These students display the brilliance and hope of their generation. We are proud to recognize them for their achievements.”

Students interested in applying for the 2018 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize can get more information here:

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