Three students in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science were among the winners of the 2017 Lemelson-MIT Student Prizes, which are designed to honor the nation’s most inventive college students.
The prizes, presented by the Lemelson-MIT Program, honored the EECS students for their inventions in the “Use it!” category, which focuses on technology that can improve consumer devices.
Chandani Doshi and Tania Yu, both seniors in EECS, were part of MIT’s Team Tactile, the $10,000 Lemelson-MIT “Use it!” Undergraduate Team Winner. The six-member team developed Tactile, a portable device that converts text to braille in real time. The technology allows people who are visually impaired to take a picture of printed text, which is then transcribed to braille on a refreshable display. Other Team Tactile members include Grace Li, Jessica (Jialin) Shi, and Charlene Xia, all seniors in the Department of Mechanical Engineering (MechE), and Chen (Bonnie) Wang, a senior in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.
Apoorva Murarka, a PhD candidate in electrical engineering, was the $15,000 Lemelson-MIT “Use it!” Graduate Winner. Murarka developed a 125-nanometer-thick membrane — approximately one-thousandth the width of a human hair — to produce high-fidelity sound more efficiently. This technology can be applied to hearing aids, earphones, or other consumer electronic devices, resulting in superior sound quality and longer battery life. Murarka previously received bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from MIT.
Celebrating young inventors
The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize is a national collegiate invention prize program, supported by The Lemelson Foundation, which celebrates young inventors who have designed and built prototypes of inventions to solve social problems. For 2017, the Lemelson-MIT Program honored four undergraduate teams and five individual graduate inventors. “These students display the brilliance and hope of their generation,” said Dorothy Lemelson, Lemelson Foundation chair. “We are proud to recognize them for their achievements.”
Students entered their technology-based inventions in “Use it!” and three other categories: “Cure it!” (for improving health care), “Drive it!” (for improving transportation), and “Eat it!” (for improving food or agriculture). Other 2017 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize winners from MIT included:
- Katy Olesnavage, a PhD candidate in MechE, was the $15,000 Lemelson-MIT “Cure it!” Graduate Winner. Olesnavage was honored for her efforts to design a better prosthetic foot.
- Tony Tao, a PhD candidate in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, was the $15,000 Lemelson-MIT “Drive it!” Graduate Winner. Tao was recognized for developing a mid-air-deployable, folding drone and an adaptable aircraft manufacturing (AAM) architecture.
- Natasha Wright, a PhD candidate in MechE, was the $15,000 Lemelson-MIT “Eat it!” Graduate Winner. Wright was honored for her work on inventions to help provide affordable, safe, and better-quality drinking water.
The Lemelson-MIT Program also honored graduate students or undergraduate teams from Stanford University, the University of California Berkeley, the University of Iowa, and the University of Maryland.
Lemelson-MIT Student Prize applicants were evaluated by screening committees with expertise in the invention categories as well as by a national judging panel of industry leaders. Screeners and judges assessed entries on the breadth and depth of inventiveness and creativity, potential for societal benefit and economic commercial success, impact on community and environmental systems, and the candidates’ experience as role models for youth.