Yale students win another accolade (and cash prize) for invention
A skin imaging device invented by three Yale undergraduate engineering majors has earned the students national honors, their latest cash prize, and further momentum toward production of a commercial product.
Juniors Elizabeth Asai, Nick Demas, and Elliot Swart won first place in the undergraduate category of the annual Collegiate Inventors Competition. The trio won for its 3Derm System, a handheld imaging device that takes 3-D, high-definition images of skin lesions and other abnormalities. They developed the device as an extracurricular project.
The $12,500 prize for the Yale students adds to $100,000 they won in a previous competition for an earlier iteration of the device. In the latest contest, they were selected over four other undergraduate finalist teams.
“After spending the weekend with extremely talented competitors from across the country, we were proud just to be counted as one of the finalists in this competition, and ecstatic to find we had come in first place,” said Asai, a biomedical engineering major from Leesburg, Virginia. “As we look to the future, we plan on expanding our team to include other Yale engineers interested in product development. Motivated by the enthusiasm surrounding our invention at this competition, we are really ready to push our device towards production.”
Their device is a small, low-cost camera that can be used by doctors or patients to capture and upload 3-D pictures to a Web-based directory. Dermatologists can remotely access the pictures in the directory and monitor a variety of skin ailments without seeing the patient in person.
Asai and Swart, an electrical engineering and computer science major from Palo Alto, California, presented their project before a panel of judges in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14. They were named winners the next day and accepted the award at a ceremony held at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, part of the commerce department, was a sponsor of the 2011 Collegiate Invention Competition.
David Kappos, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a sponsor of the 2011 contest, said: “This year’s students are further testament to the mounting inclination among inventors at the collegiate level to get engaged in projects that benefit humanity through scientific breakthrough and have potential to translate into real world success.”
Asai said she and her collaborators are now in talks with investors and manufacturers about commercializing the product.
The Collegiate Inventors Competition was created by Invent Now, a non-profit group that fosters the inventive spirit and emphasizes the importance of invention in society.