Innovation Days showcases undergrad entrepreneurship

Feb. 4, 2013

by Christie Taylor

Displaying more than a dozen inventions that could prove useful for individuals, workplaces or even entire manufacturing processes, University of Wisconsin-Madison undergraduate students will square off in a matchup of creativity, resourcefulness and craftsmanship during the annual UW-Madison Innovation Days competitions, held Feb. 7 and 8 on the UW-Madison engineering campus.

Logo: Innovation Days


Twenty-one students with 16 unique inventions will compete for a share of more than $28,000 in prizes in the Schoofs Prize for Creativity, Tong Prototype Prize, and other competitions designed to foster innovation and entrepreneurship in students, and encourage them to explore self-directed research and problem-solving outside the classroom. Several previous competition winners have gone on to create businesses to market their ideas.

Student presentations run from 9:15 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. on Feb. 7, and from 9 a.m. to 10:20 a.m. on Feb. 8. All student prototypes will be on display on Feb. 7, and many also will be on display Feb. 8. Winners will be announced Feb. 8 at 1:30 p.m.

The competition, which is open to the public, takes place in 1610 Engineering Hall, 1415 Engineering Dr. Limited public parking is available for a fee in the adjacent ramp. Visitors should use the east ramp entrance.

Student inventions include:

  • Dupro Home Composter: A backyard compost system that employs both aerobic and anaerobic (oxygen-free) digestion to maximize the number of materials that can be composted, including meat and dairy; and the types of products, such as methane (to be safely burned or used as fuel), that can be harvested.
  • PEC Mixer: A highly efficient mixer for pharmaceuticals, plastics or many other industrial applications that uses a unique "bread-kneading" material mixing technique.
  • Chi Band: A biofeedback device worn on the wrist that collects data about users' temperature, heart rate and perspiration, for the purpose of understanding and addressing stress levels and their causes.
  • Sponge Wall: A system of large absorbent PVA panels that can be quickly assembled into barriers for protecting low-lying areas during floods, or for removing large amounts of moisture after a flood.
  • Bright Band: A LED-lighted event wristband that indicates when it has been tampered with, as a means of preventing underaged customers from drinking alcohol, or illegal reuse of tickets by those who have not paid.
  • Baby Espresso: An automatic system for dispensing baby formula right in the nursery, saving parents the time spent measuring, mixing and heating components.
  • Lecture Vault: A hardware and software assembly that automatically digitizes lectures or presentations, streams them in real time online, and extracts written notes and transcripts from what it records.
  • Orkan: A compact, fast-acting washer-dryer for urban fitness clubs or apartments, allowing busy, physically active people to quickly wash sweaty workout clothes.
  • Novel High Density Photoreactor and Solar Furnace: A highly efficient device for growing dense algae cultures and harvesting their oil for use in biofuels.
  • kNRG: A clothing-attached device charger that is powered only by the kinetic energy of the wearer's footsteps or other motions.
  • American Press: A high-efficiency automatic coffee maker that produces the same quality brew as a French press, and that can be scaled for consumer, commercial, or industrial use.
  • TreeREX Tree Stand: A fall-proof tree stand for hunters that can be carried by backpack and quickly assembled for use.
  • Vehicle Wheel Motor: A wheel with motor components directly integrated into the hub to make a more efficient electric vehicle.
  • Filamaker: A device for converting inexpensive plastic pellets into polymer filament, the key component of at-home 3D printing, allowing do-it-yourself inventors and hackers an affordable and reusable source of materials.
  • Solar Tracking System: A solar panel in which individual solar cells align to track the position of the sun, increasing solar power efficiency by 25 to 40 percent.
  • CFS Holder: A self-adjusting, boat-mounted holder for fishing rods that allows the bait to stay at the same level — and thus look natural to fish — even when the boat bobs up and down on choppy water.

Several UW-Madison engineering alumni sponsor the Innovation Days competitions. Richard J. Schoofs, chemical engineering, sponsors the Schoofs Prize for Creativity; Peter P. Tong, electrical and computer engineering (via the Tong Family Foundation), sponsors the Tong Prototype Prize; Chad Sorenson, mechanical engineering, sponsors the Sorenson Design Notebook award; and Matt Younkle, electrical and computer engineering, sponsors the Younkle Best Presentation award.