In a room of no more than 40 people, Associate Dean of External Affairs at the School of Design Richard Fitzgerald said, “Five years from now when the iDesign prize is the hottest prize in the United States, you can say that you were here on this first night.”
On Monday, the Integrated Product Design Master’s program and PennDesign hosted iDesign@Penn, the first of what will become an annual competition in which Penn graduate students compete for a $50,000 prize to help launch their unique products.
The competition is meant to facilitate critical interdisciplinary thinking and looks for a product that solves a problem in the world, supported by a comprehensive design, engineering and business plan. This year, the winner was determined by a panel of five judges, all of whom have relevant experience across disciplines from venture capital to architectural design.
Submissions for the prize were due on March 16. After evaluation of 15 submissions, four finalists were chosen to present to the judges. Each of the four teams was strictly allotted a 10-minute presentation and five minutes of questions from the judges, during which they had to explain both the design and concept behind their product and a clear marketing plan.
Laurence Goldberg, a member of the Board of Overseerers for PennDesign and co-head of Global Technology, Media and Telecommunications at Barclays PLC, was part of the group that came up with the iDesign idea.
“Penn has so many terrific schools and interdisciplinary studies that I think that it is uniquely positioned to develop some amazing entrepreneurial concepts,” he said.
Goldberg, along with the entire panel of judges, was impressed by each of the finalists’ presentations. The presentations ranged from technical data-monitoring projects to a plan to improve access to effective medications in developing countries.
Engineering graduate students Diwei Shou and Edward Wu and Wharton and Engineering senior Dennis Zdonov proposed a plan called FarmLink that would use a data-monitoring service to track weather and plant life cycles to reduce costs for farmers.
Makerbites, proposed by Engineering graduate students Taylor Caputo and Celia Lewis, is a project designed to help “make manufacturing fun” through a toy set that uses edible gel to replicate the molding process that goes into manufacturing plastic products.
Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania neurosurgeon Luke Macyszyn, Engineering Ph.D. students Bilwaj Gaonkar and Madhur Behl and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Section of Biomedical Analysis Aris Sotiras designed Motion View — a touch-free, motion sensor imaging device meant to make the medical imaging process easier for radiologists and physicians.
Last to present were Wharton graduate students Anastasia D’Orazio and Matt McGuire and Engineering graduate students Ravit Dung and Meet Vora, who designed a project called SafeStamp to reduce counterfeit medication in developing nations through a point-of-purchase verification “stamp.” Medication marked with these stamps should turn a different color when exposed to light or breathed upon, allowing the consumer to check its validity before consuming it.
The judges ultimately chose SafeStamp as the winner, based on the impact the grant would have on the product’s viability in the market. SafeStamp will work with drug packaging companies to reduce the market share of counterfeit drugs, which currently take up approximately 30 percent of the market.
Though this was only the first year of the iDesign prize, Chairman of PennDesign’s Board of Overseers Kevin Penn said that he hopes the prize will have a lasting presence. “This prize isn’t just something for a student’s resume. We created this prize with the intention to spur innovation that has the potential for real impact,” he said in a press release.
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