Inside Rensselaer
Students Rewarded for Innovative Ideas To “Change the World”
Five teams of students are being rewarded for imagining innovative ways to make the world a better place, from a low-cost solar water purification system to a “smart badge” for law enforcement officers.

Rensselaer has announced the winners of the “Change the World Challenge” competition for fall 2007. Created in 2005 by Rensselaer alumnus Sean O’Sullivan ’85, the competition is intended to support entrepreneurship education and inspire innovation to improve the human condition by providing a $1,000 cash award for ideas that will make the world a better place.

Each semester, students — as individuals or in teams — select a topic from a list of challenges to use science and/or engineering to improve human life, and offer an innovative and sustainable solution to that challenge. Submissions are judged on both novelty and feasibility, and up to 10 entries each semester are selected to receive an award.

The five winning ideas from the fall 2007 competition are:
  • a low-cost solar water purification system to pasteurize enough water for a family of six, developed by Alicia Lin, Nicholas Kirsch, Christina Gambino, and Tiffany Hu. Current water filtration systems aimed at purifying contaminated drinking water are often unaffordable and impractical for citizens in developing nations.
  • a built environment that supports equilibrium between the reproduction and death rate of three types of bioluminescent strains of algae, created by Paul Hurlock-Dick, Sarah DiNovo, Aaron Henshaw, Cristhian Kim, Louis Martinelli, and Carly Strife. Bioluminescent organisms give off light as a byproduct of a chemical reaction in which chemical energy is converted to light energy. Maintaining organism equilibrium keeps light output at a constant rate, providing light for individuals in developing nations where electricity is scarce.
  • a jacket designed to incorporate numerous levels of defense against life-threatening dangers, developed by Sarah DiNovo. The proposed jacket would include an automated 911 call device, a global positioning system, and a “smart” locking zipper to prevent unwanted removal, among other security features.
  • a next-generation law enforcement badge that incorporates a variety of electronic safety features, including a camera, global positioning chip, and an officer’s radio, developed by Sarah DiNovo and Louis Martinelli. Called the “Smart Badge,” the device incorporates existing technologies into a wearable network.
  • a redesign of the pot-in-pot cooler system widely used to preserve foods in developing nations, created by Alexander Morein, Garrett Scheffler, Jacquelyn Colarusso, and Richard Willems. The students proposed to increase the thermal efficiency of current pot-in-pot coolers through applied concepts of thermal conduction and insulation.

“This year’s winning ideas tackled issues ranging from water purification and food preservation to electricity alternatives and self-security, illustrating the variety of ways in which our students propose to change the world,” said Robert Chernow, vice provost for entrepreneurship at Rensselaer and chair of the competition. “I applaud the fall 2007 group of competition winners and look forward to seeing them fully realize their ideas and inventions.”

O’Sullivan earned a B.S. in electrical engineering from Rensselaer, and was a founder and the first president of MapInfo, a global software company headquartered in Troy, N.Y. He has started a number of other companies and organizations, including JumpStart International, an engineering humanitarian organization headquartered in Atlanta, Ga.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 2, Number 1, January 17, 2008
©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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