Monday, September 05, 2016

THE IDEA FACTORY - Student Inventors

"Helping student inventors turn big ideas into the next big thing" PBS NewsHour 8/31/2016


SUMMARY:  It's back-to-school season, but these students have taken their brainstorming outside the classroom to solve pressing, real-life problems.  Visit a competition where teams of student inventors pitch their entrepreneurial ideas to guests posing as investors, who vote on the best startup ideas.  Special correspondent Cat Wise reports from Portland, Oregon.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  As students head back to college this year, some will be doing more than just the usual course work.

Special correspondent Cat Wise has a story about a group of student inventors trying to make their mark, part of our weekly series covering the Leading Edge of science and technology.

CAT WISE, Special correspondent:  Music, wine, and ideas were flowing at an event in Portland, Oregon, that brought together college students from around the country who have all been hard at work, between classes and tests, inventing the next big thing.

While the atmosphere was festive, there was some serious business going on.  Fourteen teams pitched their inventions to invited guests, who were playing the role of venture investors for the evening, with venture bucks to invest in the ballot boxes of their favorite start-ups.

MAN:  Back the team that you think is going to change the world.

CAT WISE:  There were plenty of cool ideas to choose from, like a low-cost water contamination detection system from an all-women team of engineers at Santa Clara University, and a device to help babies with respiratory distress syndrome in low-resource hospitals developed by students at Western Michigan University.

And there was even a group from a local high school trying to tackle another common problem in many parts of the world, lack of electricity to charge cell phones.

WILLIAM WU, West Salem High School:  We made a thermo-electric generator that can be used in open fire to generate electricity while cooking.  The metal rod right here will go directly into the pot they're using for cooking, and the heat will go from the rod into the thermal electric generators that will generate electricity from the heat.

CAT WISE:  Many of the products on display are still in the early stages of development, and some build on ideas that are already out in the marketplace.

But a few of the teams have created things never invented before.  Katherine Jin is part of the Kinnos team from Columbia University.  She and her two co-founders, who are also her classmates, were inspired when they saw a need for better disinfection methods during the Ebola crisis in Africa.

KEVIN TYAN, Co-founder, Kinnos:  One of the current problems with the way people decontaminate today is that the disinfectants are clear and transparent, so you can't see where you're spraying.  They bounce off waterproof surfaces, just like rain off an umbrella.

CAT WISE:  After some late nights and a lot of trial and error, they developed Highlight, a powder that adds temporary color to bleach and enhances adhesion to surfaces.

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