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Encouraging entrepreneurs: On Feb. 12, UW-Madison undergrad invention competition turns 15

Hoopla Rack

In 2008, Danielle McIntosh, inventor of the Hoopla Rack, won third place/$4,000, Schoofs Prize for Creativity; third place/$700, Tong Prototype Prize; and $1,000 Younkle Best Presentation Award. (large image)

In 1995, the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering debuted the Schoofs Prize for Creativity, a competition that provides university undergraduates the tools and resources to develop an original, patentable invention or process. Named for its benefactor, UW-Madison chemical engineering alumnus and inventor Richard J. Schoofs, the competition since its inception has enabled more than 400 students to experience the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship.

On Feb. 12, UW-Madison undergraduates again will showcase their creativity as they present ideas and prototypes during Innovation Day, an annual UW-Madison celebration that features the Schoofs Prize for Creativity and Tong Prototype Prize competitions. Held in Engineering Hall on the UW-Madison campus, the competition is free and open to the public.

Students will present their innovations to judges in room 1610 Engineering Hall beginning at 9 a.m. Winners will be announced at 5 p.m.

Judges for the contests reward teams whose ideas and inventions they deem most innovative and likely to succeed in the marketplace. In addition, students earn prizes for the best ideas notebook and the best presentation.

This year, eight individuals and teams will vie for a share of more than $27,000 in prize money. Among their inventions are an ergonomic laptop keyboard, assistive technologies for disabled canoeists, and a queuing system that could reduce wait time for an elevator.

In addition to alumnus Schoofs, the Tong Family Foundation, including electrical and computer engineering alumnus Peter P. Tong, sponsors the Tong Prototype Prize and grants.

Engineering Hall is located at 1415 Engineering Drive. Visitors can park for a fee in Lot 17, the parking ramp on Engineering Drive near Camp Randall Stadium. All prototypes will be on display during the invention presentations and judging Thursday, Feb. 12, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. p.m.

UW-Madison students can receive a door-prize ticket for each presentation they attend. The prizes, including gift certificates, electronics and computing gear, will be distributed in a drawing after the awards ceremony.

Engineering Campus Map


Page-sized map of College of Engineering buildings and nearby parking (PDF)

Schedule of events

9-9:15 a.m.—One-Handed Canoe System: A set of devices that enables people with disabilities or physical limitations to paddle a canoe with one arm and carry the canoe more comfortably and easily during a portage. Invented by chemical and biological engineering senior Andrew Burton.

9:20-9:35 a.m.—The Potsticker: A kitchen aid that securely clips a cooking utensil to a pot, potentially eliminating stovetop drips and cross-contamination from use of a conventional stovetop utensil rest. Invented by civil and environmental engineering junior Tony Brown and mechanical engineering junior Jarrett Wiesolek.

9:40-9:55 a.m.—Eco Stream: A carbonated soft-drink dispensing system for a vending machine that offers users multiple payment options and enables them to fill their own reusable containers. Invented by mechanical engineering senior Michael Deau.

10-10:15 a.m.—Split Key: A two-piece removable laptop keyboard that enables users to position right- and left-hand sections individually for maximum typing comfort. Invented by engineering mechanics and astronautics junior Benjamin Conrad.

10:20-10:35 a.m.—Portable Refugee Shelter: A portable, weather-resistant, easily assembled modular emergency shelter that is large enough to house an entire family. Invented by electrical and computer engineering junior Jason Lohr.

10:40-10:55 a.m.—Wopometer: An inexpensive, portable sensor that can measure the concentration of alcohol in a small container, such as a glass of “wopatui,” a fruity alcoholic punch often served at college parties. Invented by physics senior Graham Gisselquist.

11 a.m. to noon—Prototype judging

Noon to 1 p.m.Break

Edison generator in Engineering Hall

Edison Dynamo (large image)

1 to 1:30 p.m.—Edison generator lighting ceremony. The generator is displayed in the west wing lobby, opposite room 1420.

1:35-1:50 p.m.—Elevator Call Queuing System: An early-input interface and dynamic queuing algorithm that, when applied to one or more elevators, could reduce user wait time and increase elevator efficiency. Invented by finance junior Win Tsen Siew.

1:55-2:10 p.m.—Proactive Sleep: For users interested in improving their sleep, a noninvasive method and device that can assess and predict the stages of sleep cycles without the nuisance and cost of directly measuring sleep characteristics when the subject is asleep. Invented by psychology and neurobiology senior Daniel Gartenberg and electrical and computer engineering senior Justin Beck.

2:20 to 3:20 p.m.—Judges’ deliberation

3:30 to 4:30—Keynote speech: “Timeless principles that can make your design a winner: How pros avoid common design problems,” by James Frater and Randy Ilif of Bit 7

5 p.m.—Awards ceremony and door prizes