PHILADELPHIA -- A new robot that could assist climate-change researchers has won the grand prize at the annual PennVention competition for student inventors at the University of Pennsylvania's Weiss Tech House. Warren Jackson and his team of engineering students won $5,000 cash to develop Radiosonde Recovery, an autonomous, GPS-based robot that retrieves equipment at near orbital levels.
The PennVention competition teaches students to develop their ideas into innovative, problem-solving technologies and awards thousands of dollars and in-kind services to help launch them to market.
"Each day thousands of radiosonde devices are attached to weather balloons, but less than 20 percent are recovered," Jackson said. "Our robot would guide radiosondes back, allowing researchers to use higher quality devices and collect better data."
Second place went to Innovative Protein Technologies to develop a fully automated solution for western blot protein analysis, the procedure used to confirm diseases like HIV and lyme disease. Penn's varsity football kicker, Derek Zoch, won third place for the Quicker Kicker mechanical football holder, which allows kickers to incorporate speed and movement into practice.
Other prizes awarded were:
* $2,500 in cash and a meeting with a QVC Inc. buyer to Ultra Slim Card & Key Holder, a device that allows for one-handed access to cards and keys.
* $2,500 worth of product-development services from Bresslergroup to Radiosonde Recovery and Quicker Kicker.
* $1,000 in selective laser sintering services from Paramount PDS to Ultra Slim Card & Key Holder.
* Legal services from Lowenstein Sandler PC to Radiosonde Recovery, Quicker Kicker and Fodius, a beneficiary-notification service that alerts people to entitled financial assets upon someone's death.
* Communications and branding services from Tierney Communications to Fodius.
During the past eight months, PennVention participants received consultation and guidance from more than 40 industry mentors and learned about patenting, product design and manufacturing.
Last year's winner, MuscleMorph, went on to win the Wharton Business Plan Competition and Fortune Small Business Magazine's Battle of the Business Plans. Others, like Humanistic Robotics and SunSak, have incorporated businesses and launched products to market.