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Student Brainstorm inventions range from leisure to life necessities

Student entries in this year's Brainstorm: The Schoofs Prize for Creativity could improve highway safety, enable mobility-impaired people to control household electronics via infrared signal, make short work of transferring handwritten notes and graphics to electronic file, and more.

Open to all UW-Madison undergraduate students, the contest challenges entrants to develop unique, patentable, marketable ideas and prototypes. Top entries receive $1,000, $4,000, $7,000 or $10,000 awards. Students who build prototypes also can compete for the $2,500 Tong Prototype Prize.

Sorneson wins

At the 2000 contest, Chad Sorneson displays his first-place $10,000 prize winner TankMate: a device to aid farmers in applying anhydrous ammonia to their fields. (large image)

In its seventh year, the competition takes place Feb. 22 in Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Drive, on the UW-Madison College of Engineering campus. All events are free and open to the public.

Wobig with Stair Crawler

Eric Wobig demonstrates the Stair Crawler. His invention won the $2,500 2000 Tong Prototype Prize and a second-place $7,000 Schoofs Prize. (large image)

The day's schedule is as follows:


  • Inventors' presentations: 9-11:40 a.m., Engineering Hall atrium


  • Keynote speech: 1:15 p.m., 1610 Engineering Hall "Converting a great Idea Into a Successful Business"
    Bob Kopras, founder and CEO, RotoZip Tool Corporation
    Cross Plains, Wisconsin


  • Awards ceremony: 2:15 p.m., 1610 Engineering Hall

This year's contest entries include:

Over-Breaking Safety Hazard Initiated Taillight: a rear strobe light that activates when a vehicle decelerates at an excessively quick rate due, for example, to an accident, traffic jam or obstruction in the road.

Automatically Pressurizing Water Gun: a toy water gun, similar to the popular Super Soaker, in which the user pressurizes the water with a CO2 cartridge rather than pumping the gun by hand.

Smart Pen: an electronic recording and computing device, housed within or on a pen-shaped object, that records and processes handwritten text or graphics.

Transmissive Infrared Environment Control System (TiRECS): a self-contained electronic system that enables people with severe limited mobility to perform such tasks as triggering a nurse-call button or operating a television via infrared response.

Why Didn't I Think of That? Brakes for a Bicycle Trailer: a braking system that takes advantage of the force created during braking to slow the trailer.

Better Mileage, Better Traction: Velocity Actuated Front Spoiler: a front spoiler, designed with trucks and sport- utility vehicles in mind, that exploits high-velocity front air flow to improve aerodynamics during high-speed driving.