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Student invention taps $10,000 first prize

A carbonated beverage dispenser that fills containers quickly but produces little foam earned two College of Engineering undergraduates $10,000 Feb. 9. Seniors Matthew Younkle (electrical and computer engineering) and Robert Meyers (engineering mechanics and astronautics) shared first place in UW-Madison's second annual The Schoofs Prize for Creativity, a contest for undergraduate inventors. Their product, called "Fast Tap," is a modified version of current beer and soda dispensers. With a low-turbulence valve, larger tubing and a bigger receptacle, it significantly reduces the amount of time required to fill a pitcher.

The contest, held in observance of Thomas Edison's birthday, is sponsored by alumnus Richard J. Schoofs, president of Schoofs Incorporated and a member of the college's Industrial Liaison Council. It awards cash prizes to undergraduates whose ideas are judged to be the most creative, novel, innovative, patentable and likely to succeed in the marketplace. Other winners were:

Robot and inventor

Senior James Hoffman, an electrical and computer engineering student, demonstrates his invention, "Robot Warrior." The radio-controlled toy that plays laser tag placed fourth in the Schoofs Prize for Creativity. (large image)


  • Civil and environmental engineering senior Peter Parker, second place ($7,000), for his "Snow-Hold Fin," an extension to snow plow blades that allows truck drivers to better control where snow is deposited and thus avoid blocking driveways and burying cars.


  • Mechanical engineering seniors Anthony Eggert, Mike Martinelli and Jim Webb, third place ($4,000), for their "Skating Vibration Absorber," a suspension system for in-line roller skates. It is designed to fit most skates and to be easily removable.

There were three fourth-prize winners ($1,000 each): Electrical and computer engineering senior James Hoffman invented "Robot Warrior," a radio-controlled toy vehicle that plays laser tag; Richard Schneider, a senior in civil and environmental engineering, designed "PTAM," an electronic parking meter that both senses the presence of a vehicle and accepts payment from bar-coded drivers licenses and debit cards; and first prize winner Younkle also developed "VCMI," an electronic musical instrument controlled by the human voice.