Orphanage aquaponics, CAD keyboard, autonomous bike among 2018 Engineering Innovation Award winners

An advanced portable keyboard for CAD users and an aquaponic greenhouse designed to help orphanages in Latin America are among the winners of the Cornell Engineering Innovation Award Competition, announced Sept. 4. The award ceremony was held in Duffield Hall during a project showcase and celebration of David Duffield ’62, MBA ’64, as recipient of Cornell Engineering’s first Distinguished Alumni Award.

Winners of the 2018 Innovation Awards competition pose with their checks on the steps of the Duffield Atrium.The competition was open to teams of students from across the university; each team had to consist of a majority of undergraduate engineers. Ten Cornell faculty and staff members served as judges for the competition.

“The purpose of the competition is to encourage and recognize independent work done by our engineering undergraduate students on innovative engineering design product concepts,” said Mike Thompson, director of undergraduate engineering programs and competition judge. “This competition really reflects the strength and vitality of the Cornell entrepreneurial spirit.”

More than 30 teams entered the competition, and prizes were awarded in three categories, each coming with a $5,000 to $10,000 award thanks to alumni donors.

The Ron G. Kermisch ’88 Award for implementation of a fully demonstrated physical prototype went to YNot Bikes. YNot Bikes is developing an autonomous electric bicycle that can be summoned to drive itself to the user’s location via smartphone app. The Kermish award comes with a $10,000 cash prize and is funded by a gift from Ron G. Kermisch ’88.

The Ronald ’57 and Frederick ’86 Fichtl Award for most innovative and developed concept was given to two teams. The first was Prometheus, which developed an advanced portable keyboard for use with Computer-Aided Design (CAD) programs. There are many specialized inputs required for CAD work on laptops and tablets and many users would find it especially helpful to have a keyboard designed specifically for this type of work.

The second Ronald ’57 and Frederick ’86 Fichtl Award was given to Titan Analytics. They are creating an advanced image recognition and tracking algorithm that allows coaches to more easily analyze films of the action from football games. Prometheus and Titan Analytics have each received a cash prize of $5,000. The Fichtl award is funded by a generous gift form Burt Kaliski and Michele Kaliski ’85.

The Yunni and Maxine Pao Award for social innovation solving a pressing global challenge was given to SOS Aquaponics. This award comes with a $10,000 prize, which is funded by a gift from Carolyn Wang ’00 and Jeff Pao ’00. SOS Aquaponics is an effort through Cornell’s Office of Engagement Initiatives. The team’s aim is to build aquaponics facilities at orphanages in Latin America. Each aquaponics greenhouse would include equipment to raise rainbow trout and to grow lettuce. Both products could then be eaten or sold for a profit.

Team member Max Chao ’18 says, “The next few steps for SOS Aquaponics will happen in the classroom and in Chile. Students within the BEE 4890 class will work on improving business plans while we work with SOS Villages and Fundacion Chile to secure more funding for the construction of the first greenhouse, hopefully in Puerto Varas.” The $10,000 prize will also be used for greenhouse construction.

The third annual Engineering Innovation Competition will be held in April 2019. “There are so many opportunities for undergraduates at Cornell to explore innovation,” says Thompson. “There are classes and clubs and rapid prototyping facilities. We’ve got REV and the McGovern Center and the new physical sciences incubator in Duffield Hall. There are really too many to list.”