And the Winning
Prototype Is…

 

The top prize in this year’s PennVention competition—a Weiss Tech House program that bestows cash and other prizes on student inventions with commercial potential—went to a parachuting robot designed to recover weather instruments sent into near-orbit altitudes. Team member Warren Jackson C’08 hopes the $5,000 award is only the beginning of the device’s earnings.

“The National Weather Service launches about 80,000 of these weather probes every year, and they only get between 10 and 20 percent of them back,” he says. Since the instruments cost upwards of $130, and the Radiosonde Recovery team members think they can boost the collection rate to 75 percent, that translates into a domestic market worth several million dollars a year. Kevin Galloway EAS’04 Gr’08, Chris Thorne Gr’10, and Bill Mather Gr’10 shared in the prize.

Nine other prototypes were showcased in April’s final round. Second place went to Pravien Abeywickrema Gr’08 and Noel Byrne GEng’06 for an automated process for western blot protein analysis, a lab technique that currently takes scientists up to a full day to complete. Also notable were a prosthetic gel to help combat lower back pain—a double-barreled syringe would push two liquids through a thin needle into the degenerated nucleus of an intervertebral disc, where they would congeal—and a service that would spread word of financial inheritances to unwitting beneficiaries.

Rounding out the winners were Derek Zoch W’08 and Steve Jones C’08, who took third place for a gizmo that replicates the motion of a football player catching a snap and placing the ball on the turf for a field-goal kicker. Even if it takes a while for this invention to hit the marketplace, the hope is that it will give Penn kickers a leg up in practicing. Next year will be Zoch’s fourth season kicking three-pointers for the Quakers.

—T.P.


GAZETTEER : News & Sports



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