Daily Archives: February 24, 2012

30 freshman innovators, 13 fresh innovations: The N.C. A&T Freshman Innovation Challenge

Ask N.C. A&T freshmen for their ideas about new or better products to make a difference in the world, and these are some of the answers you get: a chemical bar-code system for tracking firearms, an iron that applies starch while you iron, and a hydraulic system to keep tractor-trailers from jackknifing.

And, best of all, according to a panel of six judges, a combination wristwatch and personal digital assistant to help students manage their time more effectively.

These bright ideas were among 13 submitted by teams competing in the university’s first Freshman Innovation Challenge.  A total of 30 students participated.  The Division of Research and Economic Development invited 2011-12 freshmen to develop an idea for making a difference in the world. The judges rated the submissions on the basis of originality, practicality, benefits of the innovation, and quality of the poster presentation.  All of the teams were invited to present posters on their proposed inventions at the Colors of Innovation event held this week at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

The winning entry was the iWatch, developed by Kelyn Greene and Faris Matar.

The problem: “One problem we are seeking to solve is the lack of consistency most college students have when working to balance schoolwork with social factors and many other aspects of the college experience.  Some students oversleep and miss classes, and others do not know how to manage their time properly. We all procrastinate at some point, and the iWatch would help that slacker of a student get his or her head on track.”

The solution: The iWatch is envisioned as a watch with a digital touchscreen and personal assistant software that would preset alarms for 20 minutes before every class and an hour before the student’s first class of the day.  After a certain amount of time the snooze function would no longer be an option. A USB port would be used to download schedule information.  “The software plans out your day with designated homework, study times, downtimes, time to eat, etc.  This reduces stress and organizes a student so he/she isn’t overwhelmed with the great load of work he or she is faced with.”

The result: The iWatch would help students manage their time properly. “He or she will be more resistant to the possible stress, pressure and negativity that may come his or her way.” Fewer students would drop out, and more would enter the work force.  A global market is anticipated.

Greene and Faris will share a $500 award.  The second-place finishers, Jordan Maness and Catherine Miller, will split $300 for the firearm tracking system.  Third-place finishers Jawari Boyd and Saeed Jones received $200 for the anti-jackknifing system for trucks.  The fourth-place award of $100 went to Lauren Pearson, Ambrose Wallace, and Naeem Gibson for the “Pressed and Neat” iron.

The winning teams will be matched with faculty mentors to further develop their ideas.

The iWatch has already caught the eye of renowned inventor and engineer Lonnie Johnson, keynote speaker for Colors of Innovation.  He asked the university to keep him posted on the iWatch team’s progress. Johnson holds more than 100 patents. He is a nuclear and mechanical engineer, formerly with NASA and the U.S. Air Force.  He is best known for inventing the Super Soaker water gun.