Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize awards young student inventors

Carl Schoellhammer, a grad student at MIT, is developing devices to help pain-free drug delivery.
Carl Schoellhammer, a grad student at MIT, is developing devices to help pain-free drug delivery.

Quick, write their names down: These kids will be big. On Tuesday, the winners were announced for the Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize competition, a national program devoted to finding undergraduate and graduate student inventors in various fields.

The program awarded $65,000 total in prizes, $10,000 to each team of undergraduates and $15,000 to each individual grad student. The categories this year were health care, transportation, food and agriculture, and consumer devices and tools.

“These are folks who are going to be inventing solutions for now and for the future,” said Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. “Right now, a lot of the process is developing an understanding of their own work.”

The Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize is one of two awards from the program, the other being the Lemelson-MIT Prize, which awards $500,000 to inventors for accomplishments in the middle of their career. The program will announce the winners of that award in the first or second week of September.

In addition to the two yearly awards, the program also has two national grants to help develop hands-on STEM skills among kids in grades 9 through 12. This is the second year where the Collegiate Prize has been national, though the foundation has been awarding inventive MIT students since the mid-nineties.

Here are the winners of the 2015 Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize competition:

Health care: Stephen John and Joseph Barnett, undergraduates at Western Michigan University, developed a device that helps prevent lung collapse in respiration-compromised infants by delivering positive airway pressure.

Carl Schoellhammer, a grad student at MIT, is developing devices to help pain-free drug delivery: a pill covered in tiny needles that delivers drugs through the GI tract, and a probe that administers the drugs using low-frequency ultrasound.

Transportation: Josh Siegel, grad student at MIT, developed a hardware device that accesses real-time data from your car’s sensors to pinpoint possible vehicle failures, provide remote control, and crowdsource weather reports and traffic conditions.

Food and agriculture: Alexander Richter, a grad student at North Carolina State University, is working on system that distributes antimicrobial and antifungal pest control agents to crops using environmentally friendly nano particles, which have the potential to reduce the amount of chemicals used in pest control by 90 percent.

Consumer devices and tools: Justin Keenan and Kevin Paroda, undergraduates at Pennsylvania State University, created a vacuum chamber to automate the 3-D printing process.

The applicants were chosen by expert committees and a panel of industry leaders from different disciplines who also choose the Lemelson-MIT Prize.

The winners will showcase their inventions during EurekaFest on June 19 and 20 at MIT and the Museum of Science.

The program was founded by Jerome H. Lemelson in 1994 at the MIT School of Engineering, and is funded by the Lemelson Foundation. The foundation is based in Portland, Ore., and has contributed $185 million toward its goal of supporting invention in business.