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Undergraduate invention competitions set for Feb. 9 and 10


Throughout the fall semester, 52 UW-Madison undergraduate students have learned to make their most creative ideas come to life. They've learned the importance of patenting their work — and of ensuring that nobody else beat them to the punch. And they've learned that for every successful idea or product, there must be a market that needs or wants it — and is willing to pay for its use.

On Feb. 9 and 10, during Innovation Days on the College of Engineering campus, these students will display their inventions for the first time and compete for a share of more than $26,000 in prizes in the Schoofs Prize for Creativity and Tong Prototype Prize competitions.

Judges award prizes to those student ideas and inventions they deem most innovative and most likely to succeed in the marketplace. In addition, two prizes cite students for the best ideas notebook and best presentation.

Participation in these competitions gives students an extra dimension that will benefit their future employers, says College of Engineering Dean Paul Peercy. “Our engineering curriculum enhances students' ability to work in multidisciplinary teams and develop novel solutions to real-life problems,” he says. “But students who participate in extracurricular activities such as the Innovation Days idea and invention competitions also cultivate their curiosity and hone their interpersonal, communication, technical and business skills. These off-timetable learning experiences help the students become more engaged, involved and socially responsible members of their future communities, and they demonstrate to employers that UW-Madison students bring the 'full package' to their companies.”

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

Innovation Days is free and open to the public. It includes presentation and prototype judging Feb. 9 from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., and presentation judging on Feb. 10 from 8 a.m. to 9:35 a.m. All student prototypes will be on display Feb. 9; many student prototypes will be on display Feb. 10. Winners will be announced Feb. 10 at noon.

The Engineering Centers Building is located at 1550 Engineering Drive. Limited public parking is available for a fee in the adjacent ramp. Visitors should use the east ramp entrance.

Student inventions include:

The Hand-Righter — A device that makes it easier for people who suffer from a variety of hand tremors to grip and write with a pen or pencil.

Pete's Clamp — A stand that locks into place and securely holds household items such as jars or envelopes so that people who have use of just one hand, or who have limited hand strength, can open the items with one hand.

The OmniPresent Community-Based Response Network — A personal, business or industrial security system that draws on networked users and devices to more efficiently verify burglar alarms, fire alarms or medical emergencies.

RC Window-Maid — A remote-controlled window-cleaning system that uses micro fiber cloths to clean and polish both sides of a window simultaneously.

The Mantis Lifting System — A cost-effective special-purpose crane that makes it easier for just two people to lift logs for building log homes.

Easy Kneeler — Designed for people like gardeners or carpenters, who spend long periods of time kneeling, a padded seating structure that deflects some body weight off the knees.

Turbine Exhaust Drill — A turbine jet engine-powered drill that uses superheated exhaust to drill vertically through compacted Antarctic snow to the ice layer below.

Universal Defibrillator Adapter — A connective piece that enables emergency medical responders and healthcare staff to attach virtually any brand of defibrillator to virtually any brand of defibrillator electrode pad.

Flexigobo and Light Target — Two innovative accessories that add additional features, including projected images and accuracy of placement, to theatrical lighting design without replacing conventional lighting fixtures.

The Light Distributor — An energy-efficient device that distributes light from a single source to multiple destinations, such as points in a hallway, without the use of electrical wires.

Concentrating Solar Collector for Direct Vapor Generation, Water Heating and Electricity Generation — An inexpensive, compact, modular solar energy collection system that efficiently converts solar energy into hot water and electricity.

Grocery Getter — A collapsible four-wheeled cart shoppers can use to transport several bags of groceries at once from their vehicle to their home.

Self-Leveling Wheelchair Tray — A stowable working surface for wheelchairs that self-levels, even when the wheelchair is tilted or reclined up to a 45-degree angle.

Biomass Shredder — For countries such as Rwanda, Africa, where deforestation affects wood availability for fuel, a bicycle-powered device that shreds surplus biomass, resulting in quicker decomposition of organic waste that subsequently can be composted and pressed into fuel briquettes.

Dual Monitor Laptop — A second liquid crystal display screen that clips onto a standard laptop and provides more viewable area for the laptop user.

Easy Quench — For outdoor enthusiasts, a hydration system that draws on pressurized air, rather than the user's suction, to push water out of the bladder and into the user's mouth.