Undergraduates’ high-tech ideas win N.C. A&T Innovation Challenge

/Michael D. Baker III, right, winner of the 2014 Innovation Challenge, is congratulated by Louis Judge, Director of Technology Transfer and director of the annual event.

Above: Michael D. Baker III, right, winner of the 2014 Innovation Challenge, is congratulated by Louis Judge, Director of Technology Transfer and director of the annual event.

March 26, 2014

Undergraduates come to college with a lot to learn, but many are already well prepared for one challenge: innovative thinking.

At North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University this year, the third annual Innovation Challenge produced ideas from 20 teams and individual undergraduates. A total of 43 students participated.

The panel of judges awarded first place to Michael D. Baker III, a junior from Raleigh, for a zero-emission, self-powered vehicle.  The concept brings existing technologies together in a novel way to power a vehicle with no internal combustion engine. The first-place prize was an iPad.

Second place went to three sophomores – Mariyah Pressley from Newport News, Virginia; Maya Whitlow, from Germantown, Maryland; and Kendrea Young, from Houston, Texas – for “The SMART Bed,” a twin-, full-, queen-, or king-size bed that would include a variety of built-in systems for personal productivity and relaxation. Each second-place winner received a mini-projector.

Third place was awarded to Kevin Compton, a sophomore from Mebane, N.C., for “The Chameleon,” an electronic system that could render military vehicles virtually invisible. The third-place prize was $75.

Innovations were judged on originality, creativity, practicality, and effectiveness.  All innovations had to be based on generally recognized and accepted principles of science and engineering.

Each of the 10 finalists made presentations to the panel of judges: Dr. Laura Collins, university patent agent; Dr. Matthew McCullough, assistant professor, Department of Chemical, Biological, and Bioengineering; and Dr. Thaddeus McEwen, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Entrepreneurship and E-business.

All 20 teams also submitted posters explaining their innovations for a poster competition. Judges were executives of General Electric, which sponsored the competition for the second consecutive year.

Poster competition winners were:

  • First place: Michael D. Baker III, self-powered vehicle.
  • Second place: James L. Haynes, a senior from Rahway, New Jersey, for “Augnosism,” an educational system for public schools that would produce better thinkers.
  • Third place: Dana Ruth, a junior from Archdale, for “Mental Messaging,” a device that would send texts by capturing low-frequency brain waves.

Each of the poster competition winners received $50.

The Innovation Challenge is conducted annually by the university’s Division of Research and Economic Development.

One competitor who didn’t win this year still found the event productive. Freshman Imogene Baldwin’s innovation was an online campus marketplace for A&T students who want to buy or sell items or services.  The sociology major came out of the competition with an unofficial but special prize that many innovators and entrepreneurs need, and it came from the audience: a partner.