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Y-Prize Competition

Photo: Tiffany Pham / The Daily Pennsylvanian

The hottest new ideas applying nanotechnology to the real world are developing right here at Penn.

On Wednesday night, the Wharton and Engineering schools, the Mack Institute for Innovation Management, and the Penn Center for Innovation held a kickoff event for the third-annual Y-Prize competition . The evening centered around the presentation of this year's Penn faculty-developed technologies. Students competing in Y-Prize will work in teams to choose one of the three technologies to market as a product. They will present their ideas to a panel of judges and the winners of the contest will receive a $5,000 prize as well as an exclusive opportunity to market their technology.

Each year, the contest focuses on a different area of technology — this year, nanotechnology. The recent opening of the Singh Center for Nanotechnology has brought this new and exciting field into the spotlight at Penn. With Y-Prize, three Penn professors will have the opportunity to see their ideas take off through student innovation.

Engineering professor Vijay Kumar , a founder of the competition, introduced the event by welcoming students and discussing the goal of the program: innovative cooperation between the brightest minds of science and business.

Several contributors to the program also made remarks. Engineering professor Kathleen Stebe emphasized the importance of learning through hands-on work, calling the competition a “beautiful union of everything that we’re supposed to be about at the University of Pennsylvania.”

Wharton professor Saikat Chaudhuri also spoke about the necessity of integrating ideas from various academic areas. “Interdisciplinary application between fields is most necessary to solve the most pressing problems,” he said.

The event proceeded with detailed presentations of the three technologies that will be the focus of the competition. This year, students’ plans will feature ultra-strong material that is only one atom in thickness, batteries that charge in minutes but last for hours and a special adhesive surface that sticks and unsticks on command.

Wharton and Engineering senior Bahram Banisadr is competing in Y-Prize for the second time. He believes that the contest “fits well with the Penn entrepreneurial mindset.”

According to Banisadr, many Penn students tend to pursue only a few specific career paths. The Y-Prize program, he said, allows students to think and learn in a new, original way. “It’s just one of many very cool opportunities out there.”

Student proposals for Y-Prize are due in early November. Finalists will be announced in late November and the winners will be determined in January.

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