Discovery Competition narrows teams to six

Each team to get $1,000 in interim funding

Washington University’s School of Engineering & Applied Science has selected six semifinalists to receive a $1,000 interim funding award and to go on to compete for a $25,000 grand prize. The engineering school
launched the Discovery Competition in September to promote new and
innovative discoveries to solve challenges or needs.

“I am extremely excited by the response to this first-time competition,” said Ralph Quatrano, PhD, dean of the School of Engineering & Applied Science. “With only a month’s notice, about 40 teams applied, and six will move forward with ideas that primarily focus on health-related needs, including those in developing countries. Our goal is to create and stimulate a culture of innovation and creativity among our undergraduates, and with this start, we are well on our way.”

The competition
provides engineering undergraduate students the forum to explore their
entrepreneurial interests with support from mentors, to use their
creativity to develop solutions for real-world problems and to compete
for financial resources that could help turn their ideas into

Teams are composed of currently enrolled WUSTL undergraduate
students, with at least one engineering student and at least one
non-engineering student.

“The competition was designed to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in students, and the tremendous response shows that students have some great ideas to solve the world’s problems,” said Dennis Mell, director of the Discovery Competition and professor of practice. “We are grateful to our alumni who provided the funding for the awards.”

The grand prize will be awarded in the spring.

The six semi-finalist teams are:

Biliboyz: The team has proposed a low-cost alternative to treating jaundice in newborns by creating a “biliblanket,” a small, glowing mat placed directly next to the infant’s skin, with much less power intensive requirements than those currently used. The team plans to build a device that uses electroluminescent materials to transmit light, eliminating the need for expensive fiber optics, and to supply a low-cost, reliable and safe treatment for jaundice in newborns, particularly in the developing world.

BMC Protein Expression: This team proposes to create a tool kit to produce proteins inside the safe environment of bacterial microcompartments (BCMs). They plan to build on existing research that produces BCMs in E. coli bacteria. The goal is to create a technology to make available to biotechnology labs, which can use it to express proteins, as well as to reduce the cost of producing pharmaceuticals and enzymes on an industrial scale.

Parkinson’s L3DC: This team proposes a self-assessment product that a patient with Parkinson’s Disease can use at home to accurately measure tremors. The product will be a software package that uses the Leap by LeapMotion Inc. to create a quantitative method for 3D measurements of Parkinsonian tremor. These assessment results would then be digitally available to clinicians to remotely monitor the patient and professionally assess the results.

Polysomnography: The team plans to increase accessibility to testing for sleep disorders, called polysomnography, by adapting and interfacing medical-sensing peripherals through the headphone input of smartphones. This technology could lead to the expansion of home patient monitoring for patients with sleep disorders or other disorders in the future.

Sparo Labs: Sparo Labs stems from an award-winning project to develop a low-cost spirometer, which measures lung function. The team plans to further develop the product to prepare it for clinical trials, with the end goal of the device being available for use in developing countries to better diagnose lung disorders such as asthma, chronic obstruction pulmonary disorders and cystic fibrosis.

Team Coyote: Project Coyote is envisioned as software for GPS-equipped portable navigation systems (primarily smartphones and car GPS devices) that uses sound to provide instant, intuitive, hands-free and eyes-free feedback to users. Building on existing GPS software, the user would turn on a “beacon mode,” connect headphones, and the software would play an audio cue that seems to come from their destination, allowing them to “follow” the sound to find their destination.

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