Innovation Days showcases undergrad entrepreneurship

February 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.