Discovery Competition 2014 names 10 semifinalists

Ten teams have been named semifinalists in the second annual Discovery Competition, designed to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and provide up to $25,000 in cash for innovative business ventures.

The group of 10 teams will present their progress in mid-March, after which finalists will be selected, says Dennis Mell, director of the Discovery Competition and professor of practice in Electrical & Systems Engineering. Those finalists will present to a panel of judges for the $25,000 prize in mid-April.

In addition, the first- and second-place teams will receive $5,000 and $2,500, respectively, in legal support from Polsinelli, a St. Louis law firm also sponsoring the competition.

The School of Engineering & Applied Science launched the Discovery Competition in September 2012 to promote new and innovative discoveries to solve challenges or needs. Funded by alumni, the competition provides engineering undergraduate students the forum to explore their entrepreneurial interests with support from mentors, to use their creativity to develop solutions for real-world problems and to compete for financial resources that could help turn their ideas into businesses.

Teams are composed of currently enrolled WashU undergraduate students, with at least one engineering student and at least one non-engineering student.

SparoLabs, founded by then Engineering seniors Abigail Cohen and Andrew Brimer, was the first-place team in the inaugural competition in 2013. SparoLabs, which has since won numerous competitions, including an Arch Grant, is developing a low-cost, pocket-sized spirometer, which measures lung function.

The teams in the semifinals are:

AmoxiDerm: The team is designing a transdermal patch containing antibiotics that are delivered across the skin, similar to a nicotine patch. The patch would provide an alternative to oral antibiotics that cannot be ingested and must be given via injection. Team members are Huy Lam, Christian Shewmake, Arnold Tao, Alex Zhang and Kenny Chin.

Clever Cubes: Christopher Conlon has proposed to build a game engine middleware that simplifies the process of programming a Volumetric World. He is also targeting compatibility with the game development system Unity.

Envisioning Solutions: The team is designing a pair of adjustable eyeglasses that use additive, interchangeable lenses to allow a user to change their prescription strength as needed. The group is targeting the developing world, where many lack access to corrective vision treatment. Team members are Nathan Brajer and Evan Madill.

Team Hypnoalarm: The team is developing a freeform electroencephalography (EEG) device designed specifically for sleep-stage tracking and optimal waking. The device, a memory-foam sleeve placed under a pillowcase, would capture sleep data for wireless transmission to a remote alarm module. The team is developing the sleeve, the alarm module and the software needed. Team members are Zimin Hang, James Ahad, Xiaoyang Ye, Blake Sakran, Peter Wang, Danny Corin and Alan Sze.

MobileAL: The team is working to develop an apex locator, a device used by dentists to determine the length of the root canal space in endodontic procedures, that would be compatible with smart phones. Their device would be less expensive than existing apex locators and more portable to travel to developing countries. Team members are Bryan Cai and Du Zhang.

Ontic Development: The team is working on two projects, Cardio Rest and Tether. Cardio Rest is a sleep-assistive device worn on the wrist to provide REM sleep information to a smart alarm. The alarm would wake the wearer at the best stage of REM sleep to provide the most restfulness upon waking. The Tether is a tracking system for patients with Alzhiemer’s disease and other conditions that require monitoring and care. The device would provide real-time data on the locations of the individuals. Team members are Jeffrey Hsu, Adam Mendelsohn, Sumeet Shah, Sirish Veligati and David Zihao Ma.

Vaccine SmartBox: The team is developing a refrigeration system designed to keep vaccines in the required temperature range, known as a cold chain. The system, designed for use in developing countries, would provide a cost-effective alternative to current cooling methods in remote villages, where refrigeration is dependent on unreliable electrical grids. Team members are Anne Shellum, Sara Schubert, Andreea Stoica, Bo Huang, Justin Muste, Kwok Hao Lee, North Kay and Bryan Cai.

Viamor Research Solutions: The team is developing a high-throughput imaging solution to detect cell death, called apoptosis. They are looking to provide faster and cheaper apoptosis testing results and establish new applications toward exhaustive pharmaceutical screening and custom chemotherapy. Team members are Elizabeth Russel, Michael Harding and Ryan Charnov.

ZnDermal: The team is developing a transdermal zinc patch that would benefit people in developing countries with diarrheal diseases, a leading cause of death for young children worldwide. Oral zinc administration can increase gastrointestinal discomfort. The patch would allow the zinc to enter the body through the bloodstream bypassing the digestive system, and would be a more cost-effective alternative to oral tablets. Team members are Julie Knowles, Andrew Chang, Nicole Ensz, Braden Perkins and Natalie Spitzer.



The School of Engineering & Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis focuses intellectual efforts through a new convergence paradigm and builds on strengths, particularly as applied to medicine and health, energy and environment, entrepreneurship and security. With 82 tenured/tenure-track and 40 additional full-time faculty, 1,300 undergraduate students, 700 graduate students and more than 23,000 alumni, we are working to leverage our partnerships with academic and industry partners — across disciplines and across the world — to contribute to solving the greatest global challenges of the 21st century.