Students show innovation with InVenture Prize

Scott Groveman, Steven Wojcio, Erika Tyburski and Christopher Taylor proudly display their prizes at the InVenture Competition. / Photo by Sho Kitamura

Students gathered on the night of Wednesday, March 13 at the Robert Ferst Center for the Arts to watch the InVenture Prize competition’s live telecast of the final round. Over 200 teams competed in the challenge, but just six made it to the finals.

The InVenture Prize, a faculty-sponsored competition for undergrad students at Tech, has offered its participants an opportunity to exhibit their entrepreneurial and engineering skills since 2009. The competition consists of student teams that work to create marketable products and present them in a series of rounds.

Each year, the first- and second-place prize winners are awarded $20,000 and $10,000, respectively. The winners of the People’s Choice Award win $5,000. The top two winners are also invited to join Flashpoint, a Tech program that accelerates student start-up programs.

One of the top six inventions presented this year was created by Team Spark, which created a credit card-sized cell phone charger. Team iSleep created a car seat-shaped platform that simulates a rolling motion to soothe a baby. Team AnemoCheck invented a cheap, disposable, easy-to-use test for anemia.

Team Chewbots created a line of robotic dog toys. Team BioPIN conceived and produced cell phone software using a machine learning algorithm to authenticate identity with factors like keypad speed and pressure when entering in personal information. Finally, Team Hue created a toaster with chromatic sensors that enable the user to never burn toast.

Each team came to the stage for about fifteen minutes to present their products. The presentations were followed by a brief Q&A session with a panel of judges with entrepreneurial experience. The judging based their evaluations on factors that included technical impressiveness and economic feasibility.

Ultimately, Chewbots beat out the other inventions to win the grand prize of $20,000 and a chance to join Flashpoint.

Christopher Taylor, the inventor of the robotic dog toys, explained the importance of the InVenture Prize to him. “The InVenture prize is the opportunity for me to take my idea and turn it into a real product that helps make happier dogs and happier owners,” Taylor said.

Taylor, an ME from Stone Mountain, GA, designed, created and implemented three different kinds of robots which are specifically made to stimulate dogs. The robots, which will soon be fully autonomous, were popular with test subjects.

In second place came Erika Tyburski, the innovator behind AnemoCheck. Tyburski, a BME from Miami, explained why the project was important to her on a personal level.

“I’ve been working on this project throughout my undergraduate career,” Tyburski said. “It’s really convenient…and it provides a solution for a problem that thousands of Americans face.”

Tyburski’s anemia test only requires a simple finger prick, similar to a diabetic insulin test. Tyburski’s solution provides a cheap and sustainable way to address a medical problem that a large number of Americans may struggle with.

For her efforts, Tyburski also received $10,000 and will be attending Flashpoint.

Team BioPIN, consisting of CS major Steven Wojcio and EE major Scott Groveman, introduced a solution to a serious problem faced in downtown Atlanta. They won the People’s Choice award, worth $5000, for their efforts.

“Atlanta reports the highest rates of cell phone theft in the U.S.,” said Wojcio in his presentation.

Together, Wojcio and Groveman developed a program compatible with most smartphones that “remembers” someone who enters in their PIN on the phone. The program tracks parameters such as finger temperature and typing speed in order to develop a profile for each phone user. The BioPIN program can be customized to accommodate several users.