Big Ideas, Big Stakes

Students with a tablet

What’s a great idea worth? For the university students in the NYU-Poly Inno/Vention Competition Sponsored by Time Warner Cable, the answer is more than cash prizes, awarded during an Empire State Building gala filled with business leaders. Students will also win patent assistance and space for their fledgling firms at one of the city’s hottest new business incubators.

Now in its fifth year, the NYU-Poly Inno/Vention Competition Sponsored by Time Warner Cable encourages university students to develop ideas for technical innovations and inventions with high social impact. After two rounds of judging and submissions, 10 teams of finalists from Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) and NYU will compete April 5, 2012.

Winners will be announced at a ceremony that same night in the Empire State Building during the Inaugural i2e Gala, so named for NYU-Poly’s commitment to invention, innovation and entrepreneurship. The gala will raise scholarship funds for NYU-Poly’s Promise Fund, which has helped provide undergraduate degrees for more than 8,300 students since its inception.

The first-place teams in the graduate and undergraduate categories will win a residency at the NYU-Poly DUMBO Incubator, which opened in January to support digital and mobile media and gaming startups in Brooklyn. The incubator is sponsored by New York City, NYU-Poly and Two Trees Management. There, the students will work beside Brooklyn’s first venture capital fund, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, and more than a dozen entrepreneurs building their businesses.

“This contest was conceived to foster the i2e culture that imbues NYU-Poly,” said NYU-Poly President Jerry M. Hultin. “It has matured into a valuable additional pedagogical tool that provides students with academic mentoring, communications skills and business experience that they will need to drive their good ideas into real-world solutions. Every student who participated won important knowledge, and those who will establish real businesses will become entrepreneurial beacons for their peers.”

“Given our commitment to inspire the next generation of problem solvers through our Connect a Million Minds (CAMM) initiative, we are very excited to support a competition that gives young and promising entrepreneurs the opportunity to bring innovative ideas to life,” said Tessie Topol, senior director, strategic philanthropy,  Time Warner Cable. “We are also pleased to have two senior Time Warner Cable employees on the judging panel this year. Congratulations to all of the finalists and their efforts in developing ideas that will one day make a difference in society.”

From medicine to ethical iPhone hacking to radio stations in the cloud, students launched projects they hope will become the next big thing. Faculty and industry mentors helped the student teams research and shape their projects. 

Judges selected these finalists:

Graduate Student Category

Christopher Bradley, computer science program, NYU-Poly, from Honolulu, and Chetan Govind, computer science program, NYU-Poly, from Bangalore, India – Working with practicing and medical school doctors, Bradley and Govind are developing an inexpensive, easy alternative to today’s medical diagnostic software. Their Synthetic Biosystems, Inc., software aims to reduce the diagnostic errors that cost upwards of $17 billion annually in the United States, as well as empower nurse practitioners and emergency providers to sort through vastly increasing amounts of available medical data.

Jared Frank, mechanical engineering program, NYU-Poly, from Yonkers, N.Y.; and David Lopez, mechanical engineering program, NYU-Poly, from Woodhaven, N.Y. – Frank and Lopez take advantage of the cutting-edge sensors and other features of iPhones and iPads to make interactions between humans and robots as natural as possible. Their entry uses the devices’ two embedded cameras: Can the front-facing camera track a disabled person’s eye movements in order to direct a robot while the rear-facing camera collects information from the environment?

Santiago Kielmanovich, biotechnology program, NYU-Poly, originally from Buenos Aires, now living in Brooklyn, N.Y. – Humans employ many tools to diagnose themselves – why not give pet owners a way to find out when their pets are sick? Veterinarian and biotech student Kielmanovich proposes an inexpensive electronic home urine test to easily and quickly check pets’ health.

Alan Perlstein, biotechnology and entrepreneurship program, NYU-Poly, from Brooklyn, N.Y. – With drug-resistant pathogens on the rise in hospitals, Perlstein set out to stop the spread of the most deadly and costly ones by using innovative sensors. He also foresees applications in agriculture as well as for identifying explosives and bio-weapons.

Undergraduate Student Category

Jeffrey Corpuz, electrical engineering sophomore, NYU-Poly, from Ellicott City, Md.; Aman Ali, computer engineering sophomore, NYU-Poly, from Dubai; Stacey Kaufman, marketing sophomore, NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study, from Ellicott City, Md. – Corpuz, Ali and Kaufman propose to create an attractive motion-detecting sleeve to slip onto an index finger, turning it into an electronic paintbrush. The analog words or images “written” on any surface – even the palm of the hand – are recorded and shared with others.

Ryan John Knutsen, chemical and biological engineering freshman, NYU-Poly, from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, N.Y. – Knutsen proposes an easy do-it-yourself test for hypocalcemia (too little serum calcium) and hypercalcemia (too much calcium), or even those at risk for osteoporosis.

Stanislav Palatnik, computer science senior, NYU-Poly, Kew Gardens, N.Y. – Palatnik turns the usual social media equation on its head: His software eschews old friends for new, and the keyboard for in-person activities. His network will let users find a neighbor who wants to go to the movies or ride a motorcycle. Virtual acquaintances can interview each other, as well.

Jonathan Samudio, computer engineering freshman, NYU-Poly, from Congers, N.Y. – Samudio is designing a “smart” jacket called IronSuit, which can use the wearers body heat to generate electricity to charge electrical devices. The jacket can also heat or cool the user while not charging a device.

Yangzi Isabel Tian, chemical and Biological engineering junior, NYU-Poly, from San Gabriel, Calif. – In search of a non-invasive cancer therapy, Tian looks to deliver a tumor-suppressing gene by deploying synthetic nano-engineered carriers. Through this combinatorial therapy, Tian expects safer and more effective treatment with fewer side effects.

Luc Succes, computer science senior, NYU-Poly, from Paris and now living in Uniondale, N.Y.; and Shirley Wynn, computer science senior, NYU-Poly, from Brooklyn, N.Y. – Searching for a new radio format that encourages interactivity and provides stations with systematic insight on listeners’ opinions and interests, Succes and Wynn developed their first prototype during a senior design project using NYU-Poly’s radio station. Their cloud-based service called provides radio stations with realtime feedback and analytics on listeners connected through web and mobile platforms. Listeners can pick what they want to hear and communicate with other listeners. The students are currently testing their latest prototype with two college stations.