PHILADELPHIA –- A new prosthetic accessory worn on the residual limb of a transtibial (below-knee) amputee was awarded the Grand Prize at the Fourth Annual PennVention competition for student inventors at the University of Pennsylvania's Weiss Tech House.
This year’s PennVention competition drew 50 student invention submissions, featured 11 student finalist teams, attracted six corporate sponsors and involved more than 20 local entrepreneurs in the judging of the final business plans.
Chrysta Irolla, a senior in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, won a $5,000 cash prize to develop the Proteza SmartSock, a prosthetic sock that alleviates discomfort and prevents the skin breakdown commonly referred to as “pressure sores” in amputees. The SmartSock prototype is made of a sweat-wicking material and will use a pressure relieving system to ease the strain on a prosthetic limb wearer’s skin.
After working in China with lower-limb amputees, Irolla developed the concept for a prosthetic sleeve using a combination of pressure sensors and dielectric elastomers to redistribute force and relieve pressure.
"Right now all the products that exist on the market are very passive. They're just cushioning, and I'm creating an active redistribution system," Irolla said.
This year’s second-place prize went to mechanical engineering doctoral candidate Kevin Galloway to develop a hand-worn traffic-safety tool designed to increase the visibility of traffic-control personnel in dark settings and to improve the communication of traffic commands to drivers.
Management and technology sophomore Jason Halpern from Penn’s Wharton School won third place for the Photon, a small-scale solar concentrator that employs high-intensity photovoltaic cells to efficiently harvest solar energy for individual consumers, farmers and land owners as the next step towards distributed energy generation.
Other prizes awarded in this year’s competition included:
• Meltwater Social Innovation Award: $2,500 prize for the innovation with the greatest social impact also was awarded to Photon for the efficient small-scale harvest of solar energy.
• QVC Consumer Innovation Award: $2,500 prize and consultation with a QVC buyer was awarded to Snack Caddy for its innovative solution to the challenge of serving food outside.
• Bresslergroup Best Product Concept Award: $2,500 in professional services to be used at the winner’s discretion towards research, concept development or modeling in the development of their product for production also was awarded to Photon.
• Paramount Rapid Prototype Award: $1,000 in Selective Laser Sintering Rapid Prototyping was awarded to Proteza's SmartSock.
• Lowenstein Sandler PC Legal Mentor Award: Five hours of legal counsel from the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler PC was awarded to Galloway Designs and its traffic-safety glove.
• Tierney Communications Strategy, Positioning and Branding Prize: One -day session worth $7,500 with senior executives to determine branding, positioning and communication strategies was awarded to Crave Mobile, a SMS/WAP-based mobile social network leveraging the Facebook platform to create a tool for people to stay engaged and in communication with others on the go.
Open to all Penn students, the PennVention competition teaches students how to turn a good idea into a commercial product through three distinct rounds. Participants can access the feedback and guidance of more than 40 industry experts as they learn about issues like patenting, product design and manufacturing.
Previous PennVention prize winners like MuscleMorph, Humanistic Robotics and SunSak, have incorporated businesses and successfully taken products to market.