Sensory overload apparel and 3-D hearing ideas win Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge

Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge

Ideas are the heartbeat of innovation, and that heartbeat is strong at the School of Informatics and Computing.

The Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge awarded its second-annual scholarship to students for their technological innovations that are unconstrained by the immediate consideration of the commercialization of the innovation. The award, orchestrated by Assistant Dean for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Travis Brown, provides a $15,000 scholarship to the winning teams.

“While the concept of a startup pitch competition has become commonly understood, the notion of an innovation challenge is less intuitive,” Brown said. “What we’re hoping to do with the Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge is to free students’ minds to ideate radical technological innovations before molding them into financially viable commercial products.

“It started as an experiment, but given what our students have accomplished through the challenge already, it’s clear that we have established an infrastructure to provide the support our students need to hone their innovative thinking.”

Two teams were recognized for their ideas. SensAbles, an affordable line of wearable technology made for teens and adults who suffer from sensory overload in environments, by human-computer interaction design student Hannah Jones, received a $10,000 first prize.

The second-place team, Flâneur, received a $5,000 award. The project, a 3-D audio interface to help visually impaired people understand what’s in their environment, was created by SoIC graduate students Swapna Joshi, Mehul Agarwal, and Chetan Bhatia.

Eight finalists presented their projects to the panel of judges. Following 15-minute presentations, the judges deliberated and announced a winner. Presentations were evaluated on being novel, nonobvious, technologically feasible, user-centered, and implementable.

The panel of judges included:

  • Dustin DuBois, Partner at Ice Miller
  • Esfan Haghverdi, Associate Dean for Academic Programs, School of Informatics and Computing
  • Donald F. Kuratko, Jack M. Gill Chair of Entrepreneurship and Executive Director of the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Kelley School of Business

“A competition that’s focused on the innovative aspects of what the students work on in the classroom is important. It’s important because there are so many other competitions that reward the size of the market and the polish that’s on a business plan instead of the innovativeness of the idea,” said DuBois. “This competition encourages students to take their ideas and present them and provides a reward for them to put those technologies and innovations into a prototype or minimum viable product.”

“I was impressed by the ideas and the amount of effort that the students clearly put into their ideas and their presentations,” he continued.

The other teams include:

  •  Connectrix – Jacob Beauchamp
  •  Insole Pressure Sensor – Murat Ozturk
  •  Pangu – Daniel Newman
  •  Smart Mirror – Sangmok Kim and Sangmyung Jeong
  •  SolisWare – Luyu Huang, Richard Xu, Daewe Kim, and Nikita Haduong
  •  Wander Dog – Yingyu Hong

 Teams were required to have at least one member with a major or a minor in the SoIC; degree programs of competitors included the bioinformatics doctorate, informatics doctorate, human-computer interaction design master’s, and undergraduate programs in computer science, informatics, violin performance, finance, management, entrepreneurship, information systems, and computational linguistics. A reception followed the announcement of the winner to allow all the teams to receive feedback from the judges.

“The Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge is critical because it allows great creativity without the focus of a commercial outcome,” said Raj Acharya, the Dean of SoIC. “This program goes a long way toward allowing our students to pursue their innovative ideas and rewards them for looking at new solutions for common problems.”

 The Cheng Wu Innovation Fund, which sponsors the Challenge, was established in 2016 by SoIC graduate and Dean’s Advisory Council member Cheng Wu, a serial entrepreneur and co-founder and chairman of Azuki Systems. He earned a master’s degree in Computer Science from IU in 1977.

For more information about the Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge, visit SoIC’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship website.

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