Troy, N.Y. — Extraordinary achievements in student innovation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute were recognized recently with several hallmark entrepreneurship awards, including the six winning ideas for the fall 2016 Change the World Challenge at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Each semester a $10,000 prize is shared by the winning students and student teams who develop innovative ideas and inventions. Established in 2005 by Rensselaer alumnus and entrepreneur Sean O’Sullivan ’85, the Change the World Challenge competition has helped to validate more than 150 new student ideas.
“When Rensselaer students work together across academic disciplines, they transform their ideas into innovative products and services,” said Thomas Begley, dean of the Lally School of Management. “There are many ways to change the world. These outputs offer the inventors the promise of helping others while they also are earning income. We are very grateful to Sean O’Sullivan ’85 for sponsoring this competition. Sean himself is a great role model as someone who has changed the world through commercial success as well as through humanitarian work.”
The competition is overseen by the Paul J. ’69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship in the Lally School of Management. “The Change the World Challenge program has allowed us to identify and encourage students looking to make an impact on the world through entrepreneurship,” said Jason Kuruzovich, faculty director of the Severino Center. “While taking part in the intensive six-week program, students perform extensive customer discovery while receiving coaching and engaging actively in the entrepreneurship ecosystem at Rensselaer.”
The Change the World Challenge competition is a twice-yearly event for Rensselaer students created to support entrepreneurship education and inspire Rensselaer students to consider ways to improve the human condition. Each semester a $10,000 prize is shared by the winning students and student teams who develop innovative ideas and inventions. Patent application assistance is also given to the winning student proposals when applicable.
Since its inception, students involved in the competition have developed ideas with the potential to improve human life, and that offer an innovative and sustainable solution. Examples of past and current challenges include improving safety and security, addressing energy, water, health, and environmental or transportation issues, and technologies to leverage the field of virtual reality software uses in classroom learning and gaming, among others.
“Entrepreneurs change the world, reshaping what is possible and impossible,” said Jason Kuruzovich, academic director of the Severino Center. “This group stands at the edge of what for many will be a long and difficult journey to bring their innovations to market. We take students through a six-week program where they must get out of the building and try to validate their ideas. Some will succeed, but in the Change the World Challenge we celebrate this willingness to try—even if you know you might fail—to change the world.”
The six winning ideas for the fall 2016 competition cover a range of innovative devices, processes, and technologies:
Aedifex Fabricator is an integrated engineering platform offering simultaneous five-axis 3-D printer and computer numerically controlled (CNC) machining capabilities in one package. It aims to simplify manufacturing workflow, thus increasing productivity for hobbyists, makers, artisans, and entrepreneurs alike. Created by Ngai To Yu ’20, nuclear engineering, and Kael Kauffman ’20, electrical engineering.
Amphibious Flipper is an affordable prosthetic that provides trans-tibial amputees the ability to seamlessly transition between land and water and actively participate in a wider range of water-based activities. Developed by Eric Leung, exchange student; Simon Laforgue, exchange student; and Yuhan Chen ’17, M.S. in technology, commercialization, and entrepreneurship .
Refugee Education Connection is working to promote personal growth and community development for displaced refugees by facilitating the development, implementation and management of quality and appropriate educational programs. Created by Matai Blacklock ‘16, dual major in Industrial and Management Engineering and Science Technology and Society Studies.
Research Accountability System is creating a system that seeks to change the culture of sensationalized research by increasing transparency. Developed by Xavier Boudreau ’20, electrical engineering.
Sanguine Diagnostics is a paper diagnostics support platform, with the goal to provide a low-cost, point-of-care diagnostics solution to improve global health and the standard of care for patients worldwide. Created by Vincent Arena ’17, mechanical engineering, and design, innovation, and society.
yize nrg (pronounced “wise energy”) is developing a platform for the energy grid that creates a marketplace among consumers. Created by Wyatt Kroemer ’18, computer science.
The participation of Rensselaer students in the annual Change the World Challenge competition exemplifies The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer. The foundation for this vision is the recognition that global challenges and opportunities are so great they cannot be adequately addressed by even the most talented person working alone. The New Polytechnic emphasizes and supports collaboration across disciplines, sectors, and regions to address the great global challenges of our day, using the most advanced tools and technologies, many of which are developed at Rensselaer. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.
For more information about the Paul J. ’69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship, visit
For more information about the Lally School of Management, visit http://lallyschool.rpi.edu/.
About the “Change the World Challenge” Student Innovation Competition
The Change the World Challenge was created by Rensselaer alumnus, serial entrepreneur inventor, filmmaker, and venture capitalist Sean O’Sullivan ’85, who earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Rensselaer. O’Sullivan, who also serves as managing director of SOSventures International, an investment management operation, is the founder of JumpStart International, NetCentric, and was a founder and first president of software firm MapInfo, now known as PitneyBowes MapInfo. O’Sullivan has started a number of other companies and organizations and is currently co-founder and managing director of Avego Corporation. He was selected as the 2011 William F. Glaser ’53 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year.
About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering; the sciences; information technology and web sciences; architecture; management; and the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Rensselaer faculty advance research in a wide range of fields, with an emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology, computational science and engineering, data science, and the media arts and technology. The Institute has an established record of success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace, fulfilling its founding mission of applying science “to the common purposes of life.” For more information, please visit http://www.rpi.edu.