Prototyping Fund Showcase unveils impressive student innovations

Beespect team at Prototyping Fund showcase

Tandon students at the Prototyping Fund Showcase display their sensor-enabled beehive lid for commercial beekeepers that aims to reduce colony losses by reporting hive microenvironment data 

“The disappearance of honey bees is a serious concern of global proportions,” said Octavia Larentis, co-founder of Beespect. “In the summer of 2018, we learned more about the potential causes of honey bee colony losses and drew up our earliest plans for a hive monitoring device that could improve colony health. Hence, Beespect was born.”

Larentis and her co-founder, Monica Mendoza, both pursuing their master’s degrees at Tandon, showcased their creation at the Spring NYU Prototyping Fund Showcase, a collaborative program offered by the Design Lab @ NYU Tandon MakerSpace and the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute that supports student entrepreneurs.

Beespect, as they explained, allows commercial beekeepers to monitor and manage hive health by means of an arduino-enabled sensor network on the lid of the hive, which measures humidity, temperature, and food supply. After receiving funding from Phase 1 of the Prototyping Fund last fall, Larentis and Mendoza continued refining their design and gaining a better understanding of the features that beekeepers find most important. A $2,000 Phase 2 grant allowed them to purchase sufficient components for the construction of five more devices, which they plan to test with the help of a cadre of beekeepers.

Prototype Fund Awardees from the previous spring and fall were invited to enter Phase 2 in the 2019 spring semester. Thereby, they had the opportunity to receive up to $2000 to iterate on and improve their design. Moreover, new participants were welcome to enter Phase 1 and receive up to $500 to bring their yet-undeveloped inventions to life. Along with the expertise of faculty lead, Anne-Laure Fayard, who co-organizes the Prototyping Fund with Sarah Maibach of the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute, these student innovators can access resources from the Design Lab @ NYU MakerSpace and the NYU Leslie E-Lab.

“This semester again, we were thrilled to see the prototypes created by the students — not only the final versions but the iterations and the insights they gathered throughout the process. It's also very inspiring to see so many projects focusing on tackling social issues — from waste and bee protection to coding education, way-finding for the visually impaired, and homelessness," said Fayard, an associate professor in the Department of Technology Management and Innovation at NYU Tandon.

student holding a ski

Among other awardees was PepperPet, which was also the audience choice winner at InnoVention. Created by Tengku Hana Shafikah, Belinda Che, Lambert Wu, and Neha Vasudevan (all first-year Tandon students), PepperPet is an interactive, holographic pet projected in a portable box aimed at instilling responsibility in children and ideal for families unable to adopt pets due to allergies.

Foldable Alpine Skis, another prototype at the showcase, stemmed from one of the team member’s frustration when traveling to different ski resorts with 6-foot-long skis. First-year students Xinyang LiuMonserrate Valdez, and Begum Ferdous constructed the foldable equipment using traditional techniques, laminating layers of poplar, fiberglass, and resin. (Power tools were used for the construction of the ski’s hinge.) In addition to the NYU Prototyping Fund, they also collaborated and shared material and resources with NYU's Society for the Advancement of Materials and Process Engineering at Tandon. For the TechnoFlex team, as they call themselves, the mission is to provide a convenient travel solution to skiers of all ages and skill levels. “We know our prototype is not a final product, but making cost-effective design improvements through iterative testing is the key to perfecting it. We plan to test our first prototype in the next snow season while iterating on the design during the off-season, this summer, by creating a second ski,” says Monserrate Valdez.

Since 2013, the NYU Prototyping Fund has been supporting student innovators by providing funding, resources, and mentors they need to bring their ideas to life. "The mission of the Design Lab @ NYU MakerSpace is at its core to support creative confidence, collaboration and an innovation mindset and all teams participating to the Prototyping Fund Showcase this spring reflected again this ethos through their projects and their composition with multiple programs, majors and schools (Gallatin, Steinhardt, Stern, Tandon, Tisch) being represented," according to Fayard.