The InVenture Prize is an undergraduate invention competition at Georgia Tech that provides incentives, resources, and a structure for student innovation in a fun, high profile, televised event. The second year of the competition (2009-10) involved 300 student inventors, 60 faculty, 1,000 audience members, 50,000 television viewers, $30,000 in prizes, sixteen provisional patents and two utility patents filed, and national media coverage by CNN, NPR and others.
This grant will help transform the competition into a business-launching platform by incorporating a preparatory technology-focused curriculum, a series of high-profile competitive rounds, and follow-on support and mentorship. The top three objectives of the grant are to: increase by 50% from 2010 the number of interdisciplinary teams participating in the competition (as well as the number of teams comprising minorities, the number of teams tackling human needs/social entrepreneurship challenges, and the number of successful teams after the competition); build and strengthen infrastructure for the televised final round of the competition; and continue to use the competition to foster a culture of innovation at Georgia Tech.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce enough or cannot properly use insulin, the protein required for the body to absorb glucose from the blood. Transplantation of live islet cells (the pancreatic cells responsible for producing insulin) has been studied as a method for curing diabetes, but donor islet cells that are transplanted into patients are attacked by the immune system, causing transplant rejection. There is a relatively low islet transplant success rate, even when using immunosuppressant drugs.
This team is developing a new solution: encapsulating the islet cells in a biocompatible hydrogel membrane. The cell encapsulation system will allow glucose and insulin to diffuse through freely, but Immunoglobulin G and white blood cells will not be able to pass through, effectively “hiding” the islet cells from the immune system. With this implantable device, diabetics will no longer have to deal with the hassle and pain of testing their blood glucose up to four times a day, calculating the correct amount of insulin, and injecting themselves.
This team is addressing the issue of sanitation in developing countries through the development of a dry latrine system that provides sustainable, affordable, and safe treatment of human waste using the sun’s energy. While some dry (waterless) latrines are already being marketed, a system has yet to be developed that effectively inactivates Ascaris cysts, which present a major health risk to people in communities with inadequate sanitation facilities.
The team is working to create a latrine that captures both solid and liquid wastes, provides space to store solid waste for a specified time, exposes it to concentrated sunlight in order to deactivate and kill all pathogenic organisms, and then uses the deactivated waste as fertilizer in a revenue-generating microenterprise. The team has fielded several prototypes in remote areas of Bolivia and, using lessons learned from the field, is currently working to refine the design to make it more robust, effective and profitable.
There is a gap in the world today between people with access to digital and information technology (in developed countries) and those without (in developing countries). Connectivity has been an issue in the developing world for a number of reasons, including unfavorable government policies, corruption, illiteracy and computer illiteracy, lack of infrastructure, and cultural norms. Generic solutions to these problems tend not to work well; solutions need to be scalable, inter-operable, replicable, and flexible enough to allow the inclusion of scenario-specific details.
In order to overcome the lack of connectivity in developing regions, this team proposes to develop MyMANET, a software framework for MANETs (Mobile Ad-hoc NETworks), which are infrastructure-less wireless networks that can cover a few kilometers in diameter. Every consumer device in a MANET (a cell phone, a PC) acts as a host and router at the same time, bringing flexibility and robustness to the network, without the need for infrastructure such as towers or base stations. Both capital and recurrent costs are low, making MyMANET a plausible proposition for connectivity in developing areas.
MicroStereolithography (MSLA) is a novel layer-based microfabrication technology in which three-dimensional physical parts can be selectively created directly from a computer model using photopolymer resin. The Georgia Tech Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute (RPMI) recently developed an advanced MSLA machine that uses an innovative method of delivering ultraviolet light onto the desired build surface using a digital micro-mirror array device. Currently the machine is operated manually, but its speed and resolution could be improved by automation. The MSLA E-Team automated this machine and developed a business plan for a MSLA "service bureau" venture to commercialize the technology.
The MSLA E-Team targeted the growing six billion Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) industry, where two-dimensional, labor-intensive, and iterative manufacturing techniques are typical.
This E-Team developed a new sensor technology, the Non-contacting Resistance Displacement Transducer (NRDT). Used primarily in the metalworking, military/aerospace, and automotive markets, displacement sensors allow accurate control of everything from robotic arms to manufacturing assembly lines. The dominant sensor on the market today is the Linear Variable Displacement Transducer (LVDT), which, while precise and robust, is expensive due to its complex structure. While researching an unrelated problem, this E-Team came up with the NRDT, a device that offers far better performance than LVDTs at a fraction of the cost. NRDT's advantage lies in its simple design, allowing the device to get less expensive as it gets smaller, while still delivering optimal performance. LVDTs, on the other hand, become more expensive as they get smaller.
Update: After winning first place in the "Most Fundable" category of the 2005 Georgia Tech Business Plan Competition, the NRDT team took its product to market. They have formed a company, Sentrinsic (intrinsic sensing), have two patents pending, have received over $150k in funding, and made their first sale in April 2006.
Over seven million Americans suffer from Chronic Venous Insufficiency (CVI), a painful and debilitating disease that affects veins in the lower extremities. Veins in the legs have one-way valves that usually function to prevent blood from pooling at the feet, but malfunctioning valves can cause leg swelling, ulcerations, varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal. Current treatments for CVI include anti-coagulant drugs, bed-rest and compressive legwear, but these target the symptoms of the disease rather than the cause. The standard surgical treatment is valve transplantation, but it's difficult to find suitable donor valves, and the surgery is highly invasive.
This E-Team has fabricated a prosthetic vein valve that can be implanted in a lower-risk, minimally invasive procedure. The valve is flexible, biocompatible, does not form blood clots, and can be manufactured cheaply. The team has shown that the valve is operationally functional; they are now performing pre-clinical tests in preparation for FDA approval.
Over sixteen billion hypodermic needle injections are given annually in developing countries, but, due to frequent needle reuse and inappropriate disposal, half of the injections are deemed unsafe. Each year, millions of new cases of hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV are introduced in this way. In 1999 the WHO mandated that all conventional syringes used in its programs be replaced by auto-disable (A-D) needles that make reuse impossible, but this has not yet happened.
To combat the problem, this E-Team is developing an entirely new system of drug delivery based on plastic microneedles. The needles, which are about .5 mm long and feel like sandpaper on the skin of the patient, are made from bio-compatible, tough, and recyclable polymers. The drug delivery system consists of a flexible container (about the size of a fingertip) that contains the drug to be delivered, and, underneath, an array of microneedles that sits on the patient's skin. The drug seeps through the needles into the skin, and the device is put into recycling.
Although pneumonia is a common disease that affects 1.4 million Americans annually, diagnosing its cause can still be difficult. Pneumonia can be caused by a large variety of viral and bacterial pathogens, and traditional pneumonia diagnostic methods are limited, primarily because they cannot reliably collect a high quality specimen from the lower respiratory tract, where the disease originates.
In order to improve pneumonia diagnosis, this E-Team has developed the PneumoniaCheck, a handheld, tubular device that consistently obtains samples from the lower respiratory tract by separating the air as the patient exhales/coughs. Using fluid mechanics, the anatomic dead space volume can be separated from the alveolar (lower lung) breath, where the pathogens reside. This makes for an effective and inexpensive separation device that does not use electronics, a power source, or machined flow-valves.
In Feb 2011, the GIT team launched a new startup, MD Innovate Inc., to commercialize PneumoniaCheck.
The Georgia Tech Research Institute in partnership with the Emory University Center for Global Safe Water have designed, built and tested an innovative solar sanitation system for use in developing countries. Field prototypes of the systems have been constructed in rural areas in Bolivia with a local foundation partner. This system heats waste to temperatures in excess of 50 degrees Celsius (140 F), which destroys disease causing micro-organisms and bacteria. Addition of lime or ash increases pH to promote microbial inactivation. The waste is rendered harmless for use as fertilizer within weeks.
The objectives of this research are to
conduct basic engineering and clinical research to further evaluate the field performance of initial prototype systems (temperature, pH and heating times needed for microbial inactivation)
construct and field test advanced prototypes in Bolivia
establish micro-financing and NGO partners for rapid and scalable use of the technology.