September 2012

Near Zero

University of California, Berkeley, 2012 - $20,000

“Grid regulation services” are performed by power companies to ensure that power supply remains equal to power demand within a small margin. They do this with power plants equipped with governors and automatic generation controls to maintain minute-to-minute generation-to-load balance. While this setup is precise, it has several drawbacks: it is inefficient; ramping up power supply quickly puts extreme stress on plant components, shortening their life spans; and current grid regulation services are predominantly provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuel plants. While there are aggressive mandates in place to increase the percentage of renewable energy on the grid, the inherent unpredictability of renewables results in an increased margin for error that threatens grid stability.

This E-Team is developing a new grid-level storage technology, the Near Zero flywheel battery, to absorb energy (renewable or otherwise) when it is in excess and deliver it quickly when there is a shortage. Unlike chemical batteries, which have a limited power output and diminishing cycle life, flywheel batteries can supply quick surges of power in milliseconds with a reliable 20-30 year life span. The team’s plan is not to replace but to supplement current grid regulation operations, enabling more efficient operation of fossil fuels plants in a collaborative integration.

Archon Medical Technologies

Johns Hopkins University, 2012 - $14,400

Approximately 9-19% of the 4-5 million open abdominal surgeries in the US each year result in postoperative complications, which together cost the health care system $2.5 billion. The main cause of these complications is the improper closure of the fascia, a layer of muscle underneath the skin that protects the internal organs. Currently, fascia closure is performed with the traditional combination of suture and needle. This method poses two problems: first, surgeons have to roughly estimate suture placement across the incision, which can lead to uneven placement and compromise closure integrity; second, the internal organs are exposed to the sharp needle, increasing the chance of bowel puncture and laceration, both of which require additional surgeries to repair.

This E-Team is developing the QuickStitch, a device that will help surgeons close fascia more safely, easily, and consistently. QuickStitch is a plier-like device that can drive and transfer a needle across its jaw. To use it, the surgeon places the fascia between the jaws of the device, squeezes the handle, and toggles a switch to transfer the needle across the layer. The needle is protected in the process, eliminating exposure to the intestines. QuickStitch also improves placement with a built-in visual guide to help surgeons place sutures at regular intervals.

Momo Scientific

Johns Hopkins University, 2012 - $18,500

While cervical cancer has been largely eradicated in the developed world by the incorporation of regular screening and new opportunities for vaccinations, it remains a large burden in the developing world. Inadequate healthcare infrastructure, high costs, and the lack of an appropriate technology for treatment combine to make cervical cancer the third most common cancer in the world, with over 250,000 deaths per year. Eighty-eight percent of all cases occur in the developing world.

This team, incorporated as Momo Scientific, is looking to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer in the developing world with a device called the CryoPop. The CryoPop is a patent-pending, low-cost medical device that uses dry ice for the treatment of cervical pre-cancerous lesions in low-resource settings. The device, which relies only on the carbon dioxide tanks already available in developing countries (as a result of the presence of soda companies), is ten times cheaper, thirty times more efficient, and more effective and reliable than current technology.

GiraDora: Affordable Human-Powered Washer/Spin-Dryer

Art Center College of Design, 2012 - $19,500

GiraDora, a human-powered washer and spin dryer, increases the efficiency and improves the experience of hand-washing clothes for women living without access to running water. The user sits on the drum-like appliance and pumps the pedal with her foot, which agitates, cleans, rinses, then spin-dries clothes. GiraDora saves significant time: from one hour of hand washing a load of laundry down to 3-5 minutes. Estimated to cost $40, GiraDora increases productivity, improves health, instills dignity, and affords opportunities to begin breaking the poverty cycle.

Medtric/Osmotec Spray

Purdue University, 2012 - $15,770

When a wound gets infected, both health problems and the costs of treating them skyrocket. Domestically, the cost of care for an infected wound is nearly $14,000 per case. In chronic wounds, total treatment costs can escalate beyond $40,000. Current therapies (antibiotics or silver ions) have several disadvantages pertaining to safety, environmental concerns and the alarming increase in pathogenic drug resistance.

Team Medtric is developing Osmotec, an innovative, environmentally friendly anti-infection technology that does not use antibiotics, has wide spectrum anti-bacterial activity (even against multi-drug resistant pathogens) and has been shown to actively promote wound healing in pre-clinical animal studies. The team is developing Osmotec in pad, spray, and gel forms.


Illinois Institute of Technology, 2012 - $18,000

Minimizing energy waste in commercial and residential buildings in the US could have a significant impact on the environment, as the US currently consumes 25% of the world’s energy. It is estimated that 30 to 50% of energy consumption related to heating and cooling in many otherwise well-insulated buildings is due to air leakage through the building enclosures—the “drafty building problem.” But these air leakage sites are often hard to locate because the airflows are small compared to the sizes of the rooms and very hard to detect.

This E-Team is developing a new method of detecting air leakage spots in buildings using a compact acoustic phased array. Essentially, the team uses an array of compact microphones to measure minute pressure fluctuations associated with airflow. The team uses two algorithms to map acoustic sources, resulting in specific explanations: “Leak 2 occurs at the slot opening on top of the door provided for the swivel mechanism.” Based on initial results, the team has found mentors from industry, including the US Department of Energy and the Council for Tall buildings.

Cranial Drilling Tool

Harvard University, 2012 - $18,500

It is often necessary for neurosurgeons to access the inside of the skull through small holes for procedures such as measuring pressure and draining fluid. Unfortunately, the current procedures are difficult to accomplish easily and safely. One of the main risks in cranial drilling is “plunging”—accidentally driving the drill bit into delicate brain tissue. Current drills do have safety features, but all have their drawbacks; the most versatile is a hand-powered drill with a manual stop that is inefficient in cutting through bone and hard for surgeons to use effectively. There are also powered drills, but the most popular device has to be accompanied by non-portable equipment and is limited to large drill bit sizes.

This E-Team has developed a handheld, portable, and reliably safe drilling device that can create holes in the skull with any size drill bit. The device is designed to be non-reliant on the drill's rotary motion, instead using a balance between spring forces and the reaction forces of the drill being pushed against the skull. The device also retracts as soon as penetration of the skull is accomplished. The device's portability and ease of use makes it well suited for applications in operating rooms, emergency rooms, military settings, and disaster relief areas.

Local Energy Technologies (LET)

Rochester Institute of Technology, 2012 - $19,695

In low-resource settings, power providers need better solutions to collect revenue from existing customers, while customers need simpler, less expensive ways to pay for their electricity. The Local Energy Technologies (LET) E-Team is looking to meet the challenge by developing a mobile meter-reading and payment platform. The team’s meter works like a regular electricity meter, but communicates with the energy provider through regularly timed data packets sent over mobile phone/SMS infrastructure. This allows energy providers to know where and exactly how much of their electricity is being consumed at any given moment, on or off the grid. Energy providers can then remotely bill customers via SMS, and customers can remotely pay via SMS. Further, the team’s software can facilitate electrification though the Internet; family members working abroad or in the cities who want to send money to their families can strategically send money in the form of post-paid or pre-paid energy credits.


Johns Hopkins University, 2012 - $18,000

The incidence of stroke is on the rise worldwide; in the US alone, more than 700,000 people per year suffer a stroke. Stroke patients usually spend their first three months of recovery in rehabilitation centers, working with a team of physicians and therapists. Many then spend years doing rehabilitation exercises at home, but the current rehabilitation device market focuses heavily on those first three months; there are very few devices aimed at home rehabilitation therapy. is addressing this unmet need by providing effective and interactive rehabilitation gaming systems using the Kinect system. Kinect is a motion sensing input device by Microsoft for the Xbox 360 video game console and Windows PCs. Based around a webcam-style add-on, it enables users to control and interact with the screen without the need to touch a game controller. Users will be able to log into, choose a game, and play. All the game data will be logged and analyzed remotely by physicians.


North Carolina State University, 2012 - $17,000

Due to stagnant growth in the nuclear industry over the last few decades, there has been little innovation in the area of radiation detection and analysis. In terms of technological innovation, the industry still uses radiation detectors based on a 1970's design; the user spins a dial in order to give measurements. Companies must then record measurements by hand, enter them into a data analysis program by hand, file all paperwork by hand, and finally input the results into a database by hand.

This E-Team is designing a modern radiation detector that can not only detect radiation but also analyze measurements and has a data format that can be read by any general data analysis software, such as Excel. The detector will use the latest in mobile technology, including the Android and iOS operating systems. This paperwork automation solution will be offered to companies experiencing backlogs due to high labor costs and human error.