Students displayed a wide array of inventions, from baby trays to fishing lures, to compete for a variety of money and grant prizes.
Students entered in Innovation Days compete for the Schoofs Prize and Tong Prototype Prize. Judges award winners based on the device’s creativity, novelty and potential success in the marketplace.
The FireSite, a lifesaving device for firefighters, won the $10,000 prize in the 2005 Schoofs Prize for creativity. UW engineering students Nick O’Brien, Chandler Nault and Mitch Nick developed the device with the Madison Fire Department as a means for firefighters to navigate themselves out of a smoke-filled building.
Sean McHone won the $2,500 Tong Prototype Prize and $4,000 third-place Schoofs prize for the RoboMouse, a remote-controlled fishing lure that imitates the natural movement of living creatures in water.
Many of the students said they first began working on their projects in September as a part of their Mechanical Engineering 349 class and further developed the models for the competition.
One team of recently graduated seniors returned to the university to compete with a spinning, self-cleaning crock-pot dubbed the Convenient Cooker. The device includes a barrel for food with a blade on the inside. Based on the speed you set the blade, the user can cook a variety of different soups, stir-fries and pastas that can be conveniently served onto a plate from the rotating barrel.
Former UW student Dong-Hwan Park on the Convenient Cooker team said the Convenient Cooker was their solution to making better meals more efficiently.
“[It] cooks fast and conveniently, and also self-cleans,” Park said.
UW seniors Jenny Mason, Alex Salter, Tom Batlett and Tim Bartelt served up a solution to uncomfortable bindings for snowboarders with the Freebind. The Freebind makes snowboarders more comfortable walking to chairlifts. It features a rotating wheel with teeth attached to the bottom of the snowboard binding, which the user can disengage and then turn his foot while walking, without unstrapping the binding.
Salter, an avid snowboarder, explained the practicality behind the Freebind.
“We saw a problem that needed a solution,” Salter said. “It will be helpful on crowded chairlifts, and will overall make for a more comfortable situation.”
With a limited budget, students stretched their brains thinking of the cheapest way to build their devices. Mason said her team used a blow dryer and duct tape to make the Freebind.
Salter said a judge, who showed interest in the Freebind, wanted to put the group in contact with a major snowboarding company.
“There is a lot of knowledgeable people, if you ever wanted to go further with your project,” Salter said.
Nick, who said his group wants to start a company in the future, added that he and his teammates were also able to come in contact with several people who provided them with advice on how to advance their invention.
— Natalie Rhoads contributed to this article