Seven inventions from MIT’s student awards that are both cool and useful

Image: AP
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The winners of the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize competition were announced Tuesday (April 12), and the honorees confirm that we should expect some amazing things from our next generation of inventors.

Winners, chosen from a pool of candidates from 77 colleges and universities, took home awards for inventions in medicine, transportation, food, and consumer devices and tools ($15,000 for graduate students, $10,000 for undergraduates).

The awardees were chosen based on inventiveness, creativity, the potential for societal benefit and commercial success, and an ability to inspire other inventors.

Catalin Voss, Stanford University (graduate winner)
Voss developed a Google Glass app to help people with autism recognize and respond to emotional cues. The app uses an artificial intelligence system to analyze people’s emotions and suggest appropriate social cues via the heads-up display or audio.

Jason Kang, Katherine Jin and Kevin Tyan, Columbia University (undergraduate team winner)
The team invented a brightly colored powder called Highlight, which mixes with disinfectant solutions to make them more visible and effective at eliminating potential contamination. Healthcare workers can use it to ensure contaminated surfaces are fully cleaned, lowering the chance for human error.

Dan Dorsch, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (graduate winner)
Dorsch designed the world’s first light, high-efficiency clutch-less transmission for hybrid vehicles. He’s working with automotive manufacturers to bring the technology to mass market vehicles. It could offer energy savings while matching the performance of today’s sportscars.

Food and agriculture 
Heather Hava, University of Colorado Boulder (graduate winner)
Hava developed robot gardeners and artificial habitats to grow food in space and extreme environments like those on Mars. NASA is interested in her robotic gardening system, and her patented geodesic dome structure offers disaster relief here on Earth.

Kale Rogers, Michael Farid, Braden Knight and Luke Schlueter, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (undergraduate team winner)
The team built Spyce Kitchen, the first completely automated restaurant. It cooks and serves meals from fresh ingredients in less than five minutes with absolutely no human involvement. The machine includes a refrigerator, dishwasher, stovetop and chef.

Consumer goods and tools
Achuta Kadambi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (graduate winner)
Kadambi’s ultrafast optics can capture light in motion, far exceeding the capabilities of the human eye. His work combines electrical engineering, computer science,and optics to create imaging systems with applications in medicine, robotics, and virtual reality.

Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi, University of Washington (undergraduate team winner)
Pryor and Azodi built a pair of gloves known as SingAloud to instantly translate American Sign Language into spoken words. Sensors in the gloves measure hand position and movement, and transmit data to a nearby computer for translation.