A team of young engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology won this year’s $10,000 top prize at the ASME Innovation Showcase last month in Boston with a device called Robopsy, designed to simplify biopsies for lung cancer patients.
The IShow gives emerging engineers experience that bridges the gap between engineering school curriculum and the business world. In all, nine finalists representing eight universities competed for the top prize at this year’s IShow, held during ASME’s International Congress and Exposition.
Robopsy is a disposable telerobot that sits atop the body of a patient during a CAT scan. As the patient goes through the scan, an interventional radiologist manipulates and inserts the probe remotely and accurately. The team showed four judges how this device could enable earlier diagnosis, improve long-term survival rates of patients, and reduce the complication rate, radiation exposure, and time of the procedure.
“For our initial target market, the percutaneous lung biopsy procedure, we will target smaller potentially cancerous lesions, thus enabling earlier diagnosis, while reducing the complication rate and decreasing procedure time,” the MIT team stated in its written report, which accounted for half the total score and was judged prior to the live presentation. “Our approach demonstrates the feasibility of developing cost-effective medical robotics which we hope will eventually see widespread application.”
Second prize, $7,000, went to the team from the University of California, San Francisco, for Nano Precision Medical, a titania nanoporous membrane injectable drug delivery therapy system. “Current injectable drug delivery therapies often have debilitating side effects leading to a significant decrease in quality of life for the patients. We developed a novel technology which enables the high-precision and low-cost delivery of a wide variety of therapeutic molecules,” according to the team. “The system can deliver therapeutic molecules at a constant rate over an extended period of time, using biocompatible materials incorporated into a device small enough to be implanted with minimal invasiveness underneath the skin.”
Third prize, $5,000, was awarded to one of two teams at the IShow from Johns Hopkins University, for SurgyPack, a medical device that improves the process of bowel packing during abdominal surgeries. “In 2003, over 1.2 million surgical procedures that were performed in the U.S. required bowel packing,” according to the team. “SurgyPack reduces the need for repacking by 50 percent, eliminates costly operating room time, and cuts patients’ operation costs by $10,000 per operation. SurgyPack’s innovative material design reduces adhesion complications by one-half, lowering the number of operations due to complications by more than 150,000 and reducing health care expenditures by $500 million annually.”
The teams were judged on similar criteria. But the composition of each team varied. Some teams were composed of undergraduates, while others included doctoral candidates. Likewise, some of the designs were in early development phase, while others were nearly ready to commercialize.
Both in the written and the live presentation phases of judging, the teams were rated on how well they described the problem to be solved, which accounted for 20 percent of the score, and on the product or service idea and how it solves the problem, for another 20 percent. The key technology, intellectual property, and IP plans accounted for 15 percent, and the prototype also for 15 percent. Worth 10 percent of the score each were the competitive analysis and competitive advantage; identification of the market, early buyers and later buyers; and financial considerations, or how the product is expected to make money.
The remaining six teams, and each team’s own description of their project, were:
Johns Hopkins University, Dizziness Diagnostics: “The vestibular system is essential for maintaining body posture and stabilizing the visual field. Defects in this system are largely associated with dizziness, a condition affecting 90 million people to various degrees. To improve vestibular disorder diagnosis, we have built a safe and controlled automated head rotating device that systematically tests the vestibular system. The core innovation of this system is a compact, high-torque goniometer with an adjustable radius of curvature, and an axis orientation that can generate high-acceleration head rotations on three planes, allowing for the evaluation of the vestibular system in three dimensions.”
Baylor University, Whole Tree: Within 1,400 miles of the equator, there exists an abundance of both poverty and unused coconuts. Whole Tree has been created to be a catalyst in increasing the value of coconuts to 10 million families worldwide that exist on less than $2 a day. Our franchises include the assembled knowledge base and technologies needed to make a variety of products, such as binderless particleboard, erosion control netting, fuel for generators, and reinforcement for new composite materials.
University of California, Berkeley, ColSolAgua: One potential application of solar energy is to provide domestic hot water (DHW). Most existing solar DHW systems in the developing world are made for relatively wealthy consumers. Our work focuses on the development and implementation of a solar DHW for use in low-income Guatemalan households in urban areas. This technology will decrease biomass, electricity and fossil fuels consumption, reducing both local forest depletion and exposure to indoor air pollutants, as well as improve personal hygiene and overall health.
Virginia Military Institute, ELF-SD: The Extremely Low Frequency Seismic Detector (ELF SD) is designed to allow miners to communicate with those on the surface in the event of a mine collapse. The ELF SD is unique in that its signal goes through the earth and does not depend on any wires or cables—which presumably would be severed in the event of a collapse. This device derives its name from the extremely low frequency sound waves it produces (ELF) and the nature of its detection (seismic detector), to determine the number and location of individuals and the miners’ air quality under the ground.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Minewerks: State-of-the-art technologies for mine detection and removal are slow and costly. This method solves both problems: the development of a system of small, disposable robots that move across minefields as a swarm, detonating any mines in their path. Each robot will be inexpensive, costing no more than $50, making them relatively disposable and far less costly than current technologies. By reducing de-mining costs and speeding up the entire process, this technology will save countless lives and limbs worldwide.
Pennsylvania State University, Mashavu: Inaccessibility to medical care in the developing world is a major contributor to treatable illnesses and infections, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, diarrhea, and tuberculosis. Mashavu gives medical professionals the ability to electronically adopt children. Operators at Mashavu stations in developing communities collect essential medical information on each child regularly by using a computer-based system that is connected to low-cost biomedical devices. Web servers then aggregate this information over a cell-phone link. Doctors view this information on a Web portal and assist in supervising the health of the kids they have “adopted” and provide medical feedback that enhances the decision-making capabilities of the caregivers.
The judges this year were Richard Bendis, president and CEO of Bendis Investment Group LLC; Andrew Bicos, director of enterprise technology, structures, and enterprise technology strategy, in the office of the chief technology officer of The Boeing Co.; Lydia Carson, CEO of Balm Innovations LLC; John F. Elter, executive director of the Center for Sustainable Ecosystem Nanotechnologies in the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University of Albany in New York; and John Falcioni, editor-in-chief and publisher of Mechanical Engineering magazine.
The host of the event was Nate Ball of the television series Design Squad on PBS. Ball is a co-founder of Atlas Devices, LLC, which has developed a device called the Rope Ascender, used for applications ranging from fire rescue to military deployment.
The ASME IShow was founded as a collaboration of ASME’s Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship & Innovation, the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance, and the Idea to Product competition at the University of Texas in Austin. Sponsors include The Boeing Co., American Electric Power, and Mechanical Engineering magazine.
According to Elizabeth Kisenwether, director of the engineering entrepreneurship minor at the Pennsylvania State University and the chair of this year’s IShow committee, “From the start, the ASME IShow has been expanding the boundaries on what a professional engineering society can do for engineering students and for the engineering profession.”
John W. Ahlen, president of the Arkansas Science Technology Authority, is the current chair of the ASME Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
The winner of the first IShow, held in the fall of 2007, was a team from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which came to the competition with a biodegradable insulation material that they called Greensulate. The team won a prize of $5,000. The team, which also won a European award, has formed a company, Ecovative Design LLC in Troy, N.Y., to market the product.
ASME’s CEEI seeks to promote engineering entrepreneurship and innovation as both a critical resource for technological competitiveness and as a solution for the shrinking science, engineering, and technology workforce pipeline. For details on ASME CEEI, go to www.asme.org/Communities/Entrepreneur.
The 2008 ASME IShow finalists were selected last May. Prior to the competition, ASME IShow teams were matched with mentors from their local entrepreneurial community to help them refine their product, develop a business model, and create a product “pitch” or elevator speech.
As part of their preparation. the teams attended an NCIIA Advanced Invention to Venture workshops during the summer. The teams had to submit a five-page Product Service Plan in late September.
The 2009 ASME IShow is scheduled for June 13, in conjunction with the ASME Annual Meeting in Palm Desert, Calif. Team applications are being accepted now and the deadline for applying is Jan. 9. For details about The Center for Engineering Entrepreneurship and Innovation and about the Innovation Showcase, visit www.asme.org/Communities/Entrepreneur/General_Information.cfm, or e-mail Patti Jo Snyder at email@example.com.