At a full-day exposition at Stevens Institute of Technology on April 24, 2013, undergraduate students and distinguished faculty members publicly displayed how they leverage scientific research to create technological innovations to benefit industry, society and the economy – the core mission of Stevens for the past 143 years.
The annual, campus-wide Stevens Innovation Expo, organized by the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, drew hundreds of visitors to witness the university’s extensive science, engineering, business and humanities accomplishments firsthand. Showcasing more than 120 pioneering student senior design projects and featuring a student business start-up competition, a presentation on finance research at Stevens, and a faculty research poster session, the 2013 event also inaugurated a brand-new lecture series on business and entrepreneurship.
The expo kicked off with welcoming remarks from Stevens President Nariman Farvardin and Stevens Provost George Korfiatis, who said the Innovation Expo is a chance to show the world how Stevens is helping to maintain American competitive advantage technologically.
“The expo brings to life the creativity, ingenuity and passion of Stevens students and faculty as we celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship – the driving engines for the prosperity we enjoy today and what has propelled the United States to become the technological leader it is globally,” said Korfiatis. “Today demonstrates how Stevens has embraced and continues to contribute to these critical national priorities, especially as competition from the new economic powers increases.”
The always-popular Elevator Pitch and Project Plan Pitch competitions were the first events of the morning. The competitions pit 16 teams of Stevens students in a battle for investment funding to support their innovative research and business ideas, with prizes totaling $12,000.
Last year, two teams which competed in the Elevator Pitch and Project Plan Pitch competitions later built their ideas into actual businesses – NickelBus, an online service to travelers searching for the most convenient and affordable bus routes between cities, and Versor, a diagnostic device which reduces radiation exposure to spinal surgery patients.
This year, a distinguished judging panel comprised of entrepreneurs, CEOs and venture capitalists picked equally talented teams as the 2013 winners. AcceleroMetrix, which built a medical device for monitoring surgery patients under anesthesia, won the Elevator Pitch competition. The device, designed by Edan Golomb, Kyle Ripley, Derek Smith and Jen Trinh, helps inform physicians when it is safe to remove the breathing tube of a sedated patient.
The Stevens Greywater Treatment team, made up of Joseph Matarazzo and Adam McGuire, won the Project Plan Pitch competition. Their greywater treatment system specifically designed for Stevens promotes sustainability on campus by reusing treated sewage and storm water to flush toilets and irrigate landscape.
Other intriguing projects included Ecohabit, the energy net-zero house to be constructed for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, and COAST, a power plant designed to meet Stevens heat and electricity needs more efficiently, which took second and third, respectively, in the Project Plan Pitch competition. Elevator Pitch competition runners-up included second-place Nevros, which created a robotic surgical instrument to improve dexterity when performing spinal surgery, and third-place AquaNow, which designed a solar powered water treatment system that fits in a backpack.
After the student pitch competitions there were two compelling lectures which further demonstrated the extent and influence of the research, innovation and entrepreneurship activities by Stevens students, faculty and graduates.
First, Dr. Khaldoun Khashanah, Distinguished Service Professor & Program Director of Financial Engineering, gave an interesting presentation spotlighting the influential work coming out of Stevens’ state-of-the-art financial research and teaching facility, the Financial Systems Center (FSC). Supporting Stevens’ graduate and undergraduate programs in Financial Engineering, Quantitative Finance, Software Engineering, Cybersecurity, Business & Technology and more, the FSC applies systems thinking to analyze and characterize the behavior of the complex global financial system.
Next was the inaugural event of the Thomas H. Scholl Lecture Series on Entrepreneurship, which is supported by a gift from Scholl, a Stevens Board of Trustees Member and General Partner at Novak Biddle Venture Partners. Keynote speaker David Hershberg ‘68, a Stevens alumnus, kicked off the series. Farvardin said Hershberg – who has founded three companies and is currently CEO and chairman of his latest venture, the satellite communications firm Globecomm Systems – “exemplifies what people have in mind when they think of any successful entrepreneur.”
Hershberg, who recently accepted the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. Entrepreneur Award at the inaugural Stevens Awards Gala, shared his personal experiences as an accomplished entrepreneur and executive and discussed basic lessons learned over more than 50 successful years in business. He said maintaining a set of fundamental values and principles is critical – from sticking to your core competencies, to valuing existing customers, to remembering the “golden rule,” to always acting with the highest level of integrity.
Building trust and empowering employees, especially, have been integral parts of Hershberg’s success as an entrepreneur and business leader.
“It’s important to push decision-making down to the lowest levels of an organization,” said Hershberg, who likes to hold meetings in hallways and who distributes company stock to Globecomm employees to get their enthusiasm and passion flowing. “Often it’s not the management, but rather an engineer on ground – someone who is closest to the customer and working day in and day out on a project – that knows what’s best.”
Finally, the Stevens Innovation Expo concluded with a three-hour public display of innovative research projects and inventions from Stevens students and faculty.
At a faculty poster session, visitors mingled with Stevens’ world-class researchers as they highlighted their groundbreaking work in every imaginable academic discipline. Research ranged from a comparison of the impact of Hurricane Sandy on three New Jersey coastal communities, to innovative approaches to alternative energy applications, to new methods for improving information security for mobile apps, to an investigation of acoustics and noise control in buildings, to a study on leveraging social media in disaster response.
Meanwhile, the senior project expo showcased technologies, products and services developed by interdisciplinary teams of graduating seniors over two semesters of study. Stevens senior projects, which are often sponsored by industry, solve real problems faced by corporations, non-profits and consumers.
One team created a workout machine which combines cardiovascular exercise with strength training so users can achieve the benefits of both simultaneously.
Another developed a system of devices and associated processes to remove bone cement from the knee canal during knee replacement surgery.
There was a bike rental program designed for Stevens students, a wheeled-snow removal device for easier shoveling, the model for a recreational zone in Weehawken Cove, affordable head protection for female lacrosse players, a design for a Garden State Parkway bridge, an energy-efficient car, and an all-in-one music technology controller.
Even hardcore Mets fans benefited, with a mobile app designed to make exclusive team-specific information available at their fingertips.
To become involved in supporting next year’s Stevens Innovation Expo, please contact the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship.