Student inventors receive innovation prizes

Teratooth's Ruonan Han and Hamidreza Aghasi

Stepping on a bathroom scale in the morning is habitual for many Americans. But what if there were a scale that could measure more than just weight and could predict illness before symptoms occurred?

Team Scan-E – seniors Randy Song and Alex Ngai – were presented with the Cornell ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) Innovation Competition’s $2,000 Student Award Dec. 18 for their medical scanning invention. The device would measure basic biometrics such as blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels and heart rate, Song said.

Ngai said the team wanted to give users a picture of their overall health. “We didn’t want to just capture the data and say, ‘This is your health, in a bunch of numbers,’ we wanted the machine to be able to look at different patterns, look at your health history and compare it with other people’s. And then from that we can actually say, ‘Oh, you’re at risk for this disease.’”

With the $2,000, the pair said they hope to buy parts to increase the functionality of their prototype as well as work on advertising for the product. “We’re not at that phase yet, but eventually we want to maybe start a Kickstarter campaign,” Ngai said.

Two $10,000 awards were also presented at the ceremony, one to Team Teratooth and the other to Team CladNetwork.

Teratooth, composed of teammates Ruonan Han and Hamidreza Aghasi, both doctoral students in the field of electrical and computer engineering, invented a microchip to detect cavities in teeth. “We invented a semiconductor silicon integrated circuit that can operate at terahertz – basically it’s hundreds of times higher than the normal circuits,” said Han.

The team said they hope to use the prize money to build a model that will be exceptionally small and that can be produced at a low cost.

“After receiving the exciting news that we won the award for ECE Innovation, we actually got closer to accomplishing our plan for the first phase of our project, which is developing the conceptual prototype,” Aghasi said.

Team CladNetwork – Brian Xu ’15, Viswesh Swaminathan ’16 and Nyan Gadepalli ’16 – was presented with a $10,000 prize for its digital billboard system. “Unlike the conventional model, where you have to contact the advertising agency on the billboard, we built a website – and with a few clicks, any company can deploy an ad onto one of our billboards,” CEO Swaminathan explained. “We’re also working on an analytics engine which allows our billboards to collect real-time information about who’s looking at the ads.”

Xu, the company’s CFO, said the $10,000 will go toward creating the minimum viable product and purchase the $1,000-per-piece boards from China. The team plans to set up a small Ithaca network of three to five boards first. “We plan to expand into a larger metropolitan city, set up a network of advertising digital billboards there, and start generating ad revenue,” Xu said.

“We plan to make innovation a core competency of all ECE graduates,” said Professor Amit Lal, who oversaw the judging committee. “Funded by Cornell alumni entrepreneurs, the program will provide continued support for great ideas to reach the market and provide education in the innovation process.”

Said Tsuhan Chen, ECE director, “At the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, innovation is becoming part of everyday thinking, with awards for innovation every semester. This semester, the school presented awards for innovations in areas ranging from medical devices to information advertisement.”

Natalie O’Toole ’16 is a writer intern for the Cornell Chronicle.

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