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Wednesday Nov 06, 2019

Collegiate Inventors Competition winners announced

Blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter

Deputy Peter meets CIC finalist at CIC expo.

Deputy Director of the USPTO Laura Peter meets University of Tennessee graduate student and CIC finalist Lia Winter, inventor of the EasyWhip™ double-loop stitching apparatus, which gives surgeons more control over the process of stitching grafts. (Photo by Jay Premack/USPTO)

“Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

The future of American innovation was on display October 30 at the 2019 Collegiate Inventors Competition (CIC) held at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, VA.

Cutting-edge inventions created by the nation’s brightest young innovators from colleges and universities across the country—from improvements in surgical tools to alternative energy solutions—were showcased at the competition’s public expo, providing the students a forum to answer questions and discuss their inventions with USPTO patent examiners, patent attorneys, trademark examiners and senior officials; corporate sponsors; members of the intellectual property community; and the public.

During the competition, the 23 undergraduate and graduate students from 10 teams had the opportunity to interact one-on-one with inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF). These legendary innovators – who have invented many tools, processes, or devices that are now commonplace in our lives (optical fiber, implantable defibrillator, Post-it® Notes, digital camera) — served as judges for the competition, and provided advice and inspiration for the students. USPTO patent examiners also served as judges.

“The ideas represented in this room – and the bright minds behind them – are the future of American innovation… You have started blazing your trail. As you continue your path changing our world as entrepreneurs, business owners, and patent holders, we will eagerly watch your progress.”

-Deputy Director Laura Peter, addressing CIC finalists and winners at the evening awards ceremony

The winner in the undergraduate category was Ethan Brush from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. His invention, PE-IVT (Positively Engaged, Infinitely Variable Transmission Using Split Helical Gears), is a new type of transmission for electric vehicles which increases efficiency and reduces energy losses. The graduate winner was a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, comprised of Maher Damak and Karim Khalil. Their invention, Infinite Cooling, can ionize and collect water from power plant cooling towers, so it may be reused as industrial and drinking water.

The undergraduate runner-up, and the Arrow Electronics People’s Choice Award winner, was a team from Johns Hopkins University for their invention PeritoneX, a mechanism to disinfect at-home peritoneal dialysis systems to prevent infection.  The graduate runner-up was a team from University of Washington for their invention, Nanodropper, a universal adapter for eyedrop medication bottles.

The top undergraduate and graduate winning teams each received $15,000, and the runner-up winning teams each received $5,000. Read more about all the 2019 CIC finalists and winners.

Thanks to this competition, the skills that these students gained through the process of invention and by learning about intellectual property will be assets to them as they continue with their research or commercialize their inventions.

The Collegiate Inventors Competition is one of several important programs that the USPTO, with its partner NIHF, sponsors for young inventors. NIHF’s education programs impact over 165,000 children and 20,000 educators annually — promoting a better understanding of the vital role intellectual property and innovation play in our lives and our economy, and helping to build entrepreneurial skills for the next generation of inventors.

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