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Cover of the Spring 2008 issue


VOL. 34, NO. 3





Bladder-control system
wins top honors at Innovation Days

Accessible Incontinence Device

The first place winners of $10,000 in the 2008 Schoofs Prize for Creativity are (from left): Jon Sass, Ben Schoepke, Dave Schurter, Marty Grasse and Arin Ellingson. (large image)

For the estimated 10 million Americans suffering from incontinence, a UW-Madison student invention offers a potentially enormous improvement in their quality of life.

ActiveCath, a catheterized system that senses bladder pressure and controls urine flow to prevent incontinence, won the $10,000 top prize in the 2008 Schoofs Prize for Creativity, an annual UW-Madison competition that rewards innovative ideas for marketable products. Biomedical engineering students Arin Ellingson, Marty Grasse, Ben Schoepke, Jon Sass and Dave Schurter developed the device.

The Schoofs Prize winners were chosen from 14 inventions developed by 49 students for Innovation Days, held February 11 and 12 on the UW-Madison College of Engineering campus. The event features two competitions that award cash prizes to the most creative ideas and the best prototypes. In addition, participants also are eligible for the $1,000 Sorenson Design Notebook Award and the $1,000 Younkle Best Presentation Award.

Portable Refrigerated Beverage Dispenser

Kyle Hanson won first place and $2,500 in the 2008 Tong Prototype Prize for the prototype of his invention, the Portable Refrigerated Beverage Dispenser. (large image)

Developed by mechanical engineering student Kyle Hanson, the Portable Refrigerated Beverage Dispenser, a lightweight, self-contained unit for transporting, cooling and dispensing a keg, won the top prize of $2,500 in the Tong Prototype Prize. Sponsored by electrical and computer engineering alumnus Peter Tong (MS ’65) via the Tong Family Foundation, the prize rewards students who build the best prototypes for Innovation Days.

The ActiveCath prototype consists of a half mannequin with a cutaway abdomen and model bladder that is connected to a pressure sensor on a belt. The sensor enables users to discreetly monitor their bladder status and relieve the bladder via catheter when they choose.

ActiveCath team members say the system requires a minimal amount of motor skill, which makes it easy for incontinent users to control their bladder. The invention stemmed from their participation in a biomedical engineering design course, but the competition gave the students a chance to develop skills not learned in the classroom. “The greatest challenge was not necessarily the idea, but figuring out how to implement things,” says Sass. “There are always little hurdles that need to be overcome, and the only way to learn how to get by is to actually go out and try stuff.”

Hanson says the competition has given him a new respect for the effort that goes into developing products. “Everything looks great on paper, but when you actually go to make it and it comes out, you’re like, wow,” he says. “It was an incredible amount of work to make this—I haven’t watched TV in five months.”

Chemical engineering alumnus Richard J. Schoofs (BS ’53) sponsors the Schoofs Prize. At the awards ceremony, Schoofs told students he hopes the competition whetted their appetite for innovation. “I can’t emphasize enough the value of creativity and the pleasure you can get from starting your own business,” he says.

Becky Broberg, Rob Wilson, Dan Kuehn, Peter Shafe and Zach Courter

Becky Broberg, Rob Wilson, Dan Kuehn, Peter Shafe and Zach Courter— Runway Rescuer (Second place/$7,000, Schoofs Prize for Creativity) (large image)

Hoopla Rack

Danielle McIntosh—Hoopla Rack (Third place/$4,000, Schoofs Prize for Creativity; third place/$700, Tong Prototype Prize; and $1,000 Younkle Best Presentation Award) (large image)

Danielle McIntosh, a biological systems engineering student, has experienced that pleasure firsthand. Her invention is the Hoopla Rack, a system for transporting hula hoops via bicycle. McIntosh developed the Hoopla Rack as an outgrowth of her own business: making and selling hula hoops online through her website,

“I am an avid hula hooper,” says McIntosh. “Last summer, I decided to see if I’d be able to get rid of my car and found that the only thing I was still having a problem with was hula hoop transportation.”

Her solution was a collapsible green rack that holds several hula hoops on the back of her bicycle.

McIntosh claimed third place in the Schoofs Prize and the Tong Prototype Prize, winning $4,000 and $700, respectively. She also won the $1,000 Younkle Best Presentation Award and already has received inquiries from companies wanting to distribute the Hoopla Rack.

Pen Smart

Daniel Gargenberg—Pen Smart ($1,000 Judges’ Award for Merit) (large image)

Ross Borchardt, Dave Moseler, Leah Holmes, Jacob Mikulsky, Dave Moseler and Mike Vioski

Ross Borchardt, Dave Moseler, Leah Holmes, Jacob Mikulsky, Dave Moseler and Mike Vioski—Lace Master (Fourth place/$1,000, Schoofs Prize for Creativity; and second place/$1,250, Tong Prototype Prize) (large image)

The ingenuity needed to enter the Innovation Days competitions isn’t limited to engineering students. Daniel Gartenberg, an English and cognitive psychology student, won the $1,000 Judges’ Award for Special Merit with his Pen Smart, an ergonomic writing utensil that includes multiple writing tips, such as ball-point and felt-tip. “I thought of this product two years ago—I wrote it down and kind of forgot about it for awhile. And I realized that if I didn’t do it, I’d always regret it, so I just decided to pursue it,” Gartenberg says. “The competition is a great outlet for anyone interested in innovation and development. The experience gives you the tools to develop the idea and the confidence to continue.”

McIntosh agrees that anyone interested in the competition should try. “Go for it! Don’t pass up any opportunity, especially this one,” she says. “You never know where it could take you.”

Chemical engineering alumnus Richard J. Schoofs sponsors the Schoofs Prize for Creativity and electrical and computer engineering alumnus Peter P. Tong sponsors the Tong Prototype Prize through the Tong Family Foundation.

Competition alumnus Matthew Younkle, president of Y Innovation LLC and president and CTO of Laminar Technologies LLC, sponsors the Younkle Best Presentation award.

A competition alumnus, Chad Sorenson, founding principal of Sologear Corp. and founder of Fluent Systems LLC, sponsors the Sorenson Best Design Notebook Award.

Paul Peercy, Ben Schoepke, Marty Grasse, Jon Sass, Dave Schurter, Arin Ellingson, and Richard Schoofs

Pictured with Dean Paul Peercy (left) and contest sponsor Richard Schoofs: Ben Schoepke, Marty Grasse, Jon Sass, Dave Schurter and Arin Ellingson—Accessible Incontinence Device (First place/$10,000, Schoofs Prize for Creativity) (large image)

Kyle Hanson

Kyle Hanson, first-place winner of the 2008 Tong Prototype Prize. (large image)

Matt Younkle and Danielle McIntosh

Pictured with award sponsor Matt Younkle: Danielle McIntosh—Hoopla Rack ($1,000 Younkle Best Presentation Award) (large image)

Paul Peercy, Matthew Kuhns and Chad Sorenson

Pictured with Dean Paul Peercy (left) and award sponsor Chad Sorenson: Matthew Kuhns—Safesled ($1,000 Sorenson Best Design Notebook Award) (large image)


Schoofs Prize for Creativity

  • First place and $10,000—Accessible Incontinence Device, a catheterized system to sense bladder pressure and control urine flow to prevent incontinence, developed by Arin Ellingson, Marty Grasse, Ben Schoepke, Jon Sass and Dave Schurter.
  • Second place and $7,000—Runway Rescuer, a device to remove aircraft with flat tires from the runway, developed by Becky Broberg, Zach Courter, Dan Kuehn, Peter Shafe and Rob Wilson.
  • Third place and $4,000—Hoopla Rack, a system for transporting hula hoops via bicycle, developed by Danielle McIntosh.
  • Fourth place and $1,000—Lace Master, a machine that enables an injured or disabled person to tie their shoes tightly with just one hand, developed by Ross Borchardt, Leah Holmes, Jacob Mikulsky, Dave Moseler and Mike Vioski.
  • Judges’ Award for Special Merit, $1,000—Daniel Gartenberg for Pen Smart, an ergonomic writing utensil that includes multiple writing tips, such as ball-point and felt-tip.

Tong Prototype Prize

  • First place and $2,500—Portable Refrigerated Beverage Dispenser, a lightweight, self-contained unit for transporting, cooling and dispensing a keg, developed by Kyle Hanson.
  • Second place and $1,250—Lace Master: Ross Borchardt, Leah Holmes, Jacob Mikulsky, Dave Moseler and Mike Vioski.
  • Third place and $700—Hoopla Rack: Danielle McIntosh.

Younkle Best Presentation Award

  • $1,000—Danielle McIntosh for Hoopla Rack.

Sorenson Best Design Notebook Award

  • $1,000—Matthew Kuhns for Safesled, an inflatable sled for evacuating people with physical disabilities during an aircraft emergency.


JIM FRATER is president and partner in BIT 7 Inc., a strategic product development firm with offices in Madison and Mundelein, Illinois. One of the fastest growing companies in Dane County, BIT 7 partners with clients on all aspects of product direction, from early management decisions and innovation through full implementation and verification. Typical services include strategic mapping and gap analysis, user and science research, product design and engineering (mechanical, electrical and software), chemistry and process development, working prototypes and customized verification testing. Frater has experience in manufacturing, product and packaging design, marketing, entrepreneurial and turn-around situations, and executive management for established corporations such as Menasha Corporation, MicroQwik, Design Concepts and Placon Corp. Frater received his BSME from Marquette University and taught product design while working on graduate degrees in business and engineering. He served as president of the Carded Packaging Institute for two years, is a registered professional engineer, and holds numerous patents.

CHAD SORENSON is a founding principal of Sologear Corporation, a Madison-based consumer products start-up focused on developing new convenience-oriented products in the barbecue grilling industry. Prior to this responsibility, Sorenson founded and managed an agricultural technology company, Fluent Systems LLC, which was based on an invention he conceived while a student at UW-Madison. The device allowed farmers to remotely monitor the fluid level and application rate of anhydrous ammonia, a common nitrogen fertilizer. His invention won first place in the 2000 Schoofs Prize for Creativity, first place in the 2001 Tong Prototype Prize competition, second place in the G. Steven Burrill Technology Business Plan Competition, and awards at international business plan competitions. Fluent was sold to Raven Industries, a public corporation in South Dakota, in December 2003 for about $1.3 million in cash.

BLAKE SUHRE is senior technical fellow and co-founder of MotoTron Corporation. MotoTron develops engine and vehicle mechatronic systems and markets a comprehensive systems development tool chain featuring the MotoHawk production embedded codegeneration system. Suhre is an expert in the areas of engine combustion systems and engine and vehicle control systems. He holds 14 patents, including the 1998 invention of the year at Mercury Marine, and has co-authored four publications. Suhre holds an MSME from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he studied in the Engine Research Center; a BSME from GMI Engineering and Management Institute; and a BSBA from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville.

MATTHEW YOUNKLE is an inventor with an eye for business. His product development work has spanned a wide range of industries, from space research to networking software to draft beer. His successes have resulted in the first food ever grown in space and the world’s fastest retrofittable beer tap. He is a connoisseur of all things related to innovation, patents, intellectual property, and the commercialization of new products. In 2002, he founded Laminar Technologies to develop and market the TurboTap line of beer dispensing products. He is a graduate of UW-Madison with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. He was a multi-year competitor in the Schoofs Prize for Creativity, where his TurboTap invention won the 1996 competition and was named one of the best inventions of 2005 by both TIME Magazine and Popular Science.

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