The 8th annual Innovation Expo at Stevens Institute of Technology was a day-long, campus-wide celebration of the research and entrepreneurial achievements of Stevens undergraduate students and faculty. The event drew scores of visitors, comprised of members of the Stevens community, local and national entrepreneurs, and distinguished guests. They witnessed firsthand scientific discoveries and technological innovations resulting from groundbreaking research taking place at Stevens.
In his opening remarks to attendees in Stevens’ DeBaun Auditorium, Provost and University Vice President George Korfiatis described the event as an emphatic demonstration of how Stevens instills the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship to the university community, and more specifically to its students. He also acknowledged the many partnerships and collaborations in which Stevens is engaged, including an alliance with Hoboken venture Mission 50 to create a co-working space in Hoboken that was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority as well as a collaboration with financial technology services firm Scivantage to support an accelerator program to launch the next great startups in financial technology.
Stevens President Nariman Farvardin followed with a reminder of the Stevens legacy of innovation that began 145 years ago with its founding by a family of inventors. Innovation and entrepreneurship remains in Stevens’ DNA, he added, through the careful selection of faculty and shaping of curricula that promote this philosophy.
President Farvardin then introduced a “long-standing friend” of the university – Hoboken resident and entrepreneur Aaron Price, who returned as moderator for the Student Project Plan and Elevator Pitch competitions.
Scored on two criteria – presentation and feasibility – each competition featured eight teams. The winning team in each competition received $3,000. Second and third place finishers earned $2,000 and $1,000, respectively.
The panel of judges for the Project Plan Pitch competition comprised of Peter Astor, president of Environmental Partners; Kurt Becker, vice dean for research, innovation and entrepreneurship at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering; Tony Fea '84, AT&T; Jaclyn Flor, group manager at T&M Associates; Harvey Millman '73, president and founder of Mid Atlantic Telephone Inc.; Darren Riva '91 M.S. '95, managing partner at Pfizer; Brian Tully, vice president and head of transfer pricing at Thomson Reuters; Matthew Wade, founder and CEO of Game Plan U; and Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
The winner of the Project Plan Pitch competition was team Austere Landing Zone for its method to land military aircraft on unpaved runways in hostile territories. Tied for second place were teams VEHSHI 2 (bridge monitoring system) and Pile Drivers Group (design of helical pile foundations). Other competing teams included Autonomous Rail Coupling System (detachable passenger rail car), Multistage Electromagnetic Coil Gun (a soldier-portable electromagnetic weapons system), Moretrench (an emergency vent plant for NYC Transit), Track Talk (a design for improving transportation services from Newark Penn Station and Newark Liberty International Airport) and Lone Cow (a system for converting exhaust heat from air-conditioning units to heat domestic water).
The panel of judges for the Elevator Pitch competition featured Kevin S. Chen, president and CEO of Business Methods Corporation; Ayman El Tarabishy, associate professor at The George Washington University of Business; Andrew Erlick, director of design & technology outreach at Indiegogo; Jeanne Gray, publisher of AmericanEntreprenurship.com; Paul Magnone '88 M.S. '93, innovation portfolio lead at Deloitte; John B. Petersen '06, head of product at Firehawk Creative; Jim Tousignant, CEO and founder of FinTech Studios; John Vaskis, senior director of hardware, technology and design at Indiegogo; and Matthew Wade, founder and CEO of Game Plan U.
The winner of the Elevator Pitch competition was team Structural Aristocrats of Stevens for its design for replacing an aging 40-foot timber bridge. The Liverator came in second for its plan to improve the transfer time and delivery of livers for transplant. Already a startup, Cornys came in third for its Egyptian-inspired corn puffs. Other competing teams included Bipedal Walking Robot (an autonomous and independently operating, two-legged robot), iubble (a web browser based on the concept of a bubble), Scrumptious Secrets (food products locally sourced and made in Vermont), Lower Body Exoskeleton (a robotic system designed to aid special operations military combatants) and Level-Up (a multi-faceted system for improved treatment of sepsis).
The audience weighed in with their take on the team presentations, as well. Audience favorites were VEHSHI 2 for the Project Plan Pitch competition and Cornys for the Elevator Pitch competition.
Introducing the featured speaker of the Thomas H. Scholl Lecture by Visiting Entrepreneurs was the donor for whom the lecture is named. Scholl introduced his friend Dr. Winslow Sargeant, managing director of S&T, LLC, a firm supporting investment and business development for early-stage growth companies in cybersecurity, energy, communication, capital formation and education. He was tapped by President Barack Obama to be the Chief Counsel for Advocacy in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, a position he served in from 2010 to 2015. He was also program manager at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research Office from 2001 to 2005.
Sargeant’s talk, “Regulations, Innovations and Entrepreneurship,” examined the roles government and universities play in funding, generating and transferring the technological knowledge that leads to the creation of new enterprises. Along with teaching and performing research, universities like Stevens are becoming increasingly involved in the business of inventing companies, Sargeant observed. An accomplished engineer who holds bachelor's, master’s and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering, he also shared that his view of entrepreneurship is one shaped by his education and training to solve problems.
In a presentation on Stevens’ research initiatives, Vice Provost of Research Mo Dehghani described Stevens’ approach to research as one that is rooted in Stevens’ history. Current research activities, he said, follow the example set by the Stevens family to come up with engineering solutions to address the societal problems of the era.
The early afternoon was dedicated to a poster session at the Lawrence T. Babbio, Jr. Center for Technology Management highlighting the work of Stevens’ world-class researchers in key strategic areas: healthcare and medicine,’ sustainable energy, financial systems, defense and security, and STEM education.
Later in the afternoon, Stevens professors Alex Washburn, industry professor for design, and Thomas Herrington, associate professor of civil, environmental & ocean engineering, delivered thought-provoking research presentations on coastal resiliency and preparing for the next Hurricane Sandy-like storm. Dr. Washburn, founding director of the Center for Coastal Resilience and Urban eXcellence (CRUX) at Stevens, described a “surf and turf” approach of using sensors placed in the Hudson River and around Hoboken by Stevens researchers that would lead to more accurate flood analysis and predictive models. Dr. Herrington added that Stevens is currently at work on an innovative observation and forecasting system that will provide information on the potential risk and magnitude of overland flooding prior to and during significant storm events. Last year, Stevens received a five-year, $6.6 million grant from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to develop a plan to improve preparedness and resiliency at critical Port Authority infrastructure sites including Hoboken Terminal.
Finally, the Expo culminated with a three-hour public display of innovative research projects and inventions from Stevens students and faculty.
Spread out across three pavilions and a building site, this year’s Expo had the privilege of showcasing the construction of the Stevens’ competition house for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, which will take place this fall in Irvine, California. Visitors had the opportunity to visit the construction site of SURE HOUSE along the Hudson River and view its progress.
At the Davidson Laboratory, the Little Juliana Project displayed a replica of Col. John Stevens’ power plant – one of the first American-designed and manufactured steam engines.
Senior design projects that have advanced to startups were also on display. Data Minded Solutions showcased a software system that offers a management tool for diabetics and their care providers.
Another startup offered visitors to their booth samples of their tasty treat Cornys – all-natural flavored corn puffs inspired by an Egyptian snack.
To read more about the projects from the 2015 Stevens Innovation Expo or become involved in supporting next year’s Expo, visit stevens.edu/sit/innovation-expo.