Student mechanical engineers from Virginia Tech have beaten off competition from a dozen teams from around the globe to win $25,000 for their idea to create exoskeletons that make lifting easier.
Maroon Assistive Technologies – represented by Tim Pote, Taylor Pesek, and Jack Geissinger, College of Engineering graduate students; and Andrew Bocklund, a senior student in the College of Engineering – took home the grand prize on August 29, 2019 at the annual VT Global Entrepreneur Challenge, hosted by Outreach and International Affairs and VT KnowledgeWorks. The team’s prize consisted of the $15,000 Advanced Manufacturing Award for the most outstanding tangible product, plus $10,000 as the overall grand prize winner.
Without using motors or electricity, the exoskeletons support the body while a person performs everyday tasks, helping to reduce fatigue and decrease the risk of overuse injuries.
“The winning teams pitched ideas that met a societal need with a strong competitive advantage in the marketplace,” said Guru Ghosh, vice president for Outreach and International Affairs at VT. “The Global Challenge reflects a diverse set of problems university students are trying to solve from all over the world.”
Team Caressoma, from ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland, won the $15,000 Information Technology Award for the most outstanding service. The team, represented by Sophia Borowka, Jana Maes, and Michelle Koschorke, presented a solution to help prevent sports injuries. Using the latest medical technology and machine learning, Caressoma’s idea, called SonIt, helps quantify the occurrence and evolution of injuries.
Team Real42, from Vienna University of Technology in Austria, was the recipient of the $5,000 People’s Choice award, chosen by audience members. The team’s PropTech startup uses scans and pictures of floor plans that automatically, within minutes, transform to become beautiful visualisations and interactive home-staging experiences. Real42 provides access to floor plan metadata, which can be applied in ways including real estate valuation. The business concept was presented by Thomas Lechinger, David Neubauer, and Felix Haberl.
Offering $45,000 in cash prizes, the 10th annual Global Challenge was sponsored by Outreach and International Affairs, The Branch Group, Inc., Carilion Clinic, and First Piedmont Corporation. This year’s event included 14 teams and faculty from 12 countries: Australia, Austria, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United States.
The competition, held at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, was part of a 10-day celebration of student entrepreneurship.