ID/ME Teams Capture Golden Tickets to InVenture

By Malrey Head Atlanta, GA

The InVenture Prize Competition is just days away, and at least one team with an industrial design student is participating.

Last fall, two teams composed of industrial design and mechanical engineering students won Golden Tickets to the InVenture Prize Competition, an innovation competition for undergraduate students at Georgia Tech. Students present inventions which are judged by experts. First-place winners receive a $20,000 cash prize.

One team received its ticket after competing in the Institute-wide Capstone Design Expo, which is held at the end of each semester. The other team received their ticket at the Create-X initiative, also held at the end of each semester.

Since InVenture began in 2009, teams with School of Industrial Design students have placed 6 times in the competition.

The Create-X team – PedalCreator -- came through its Idea to Prototype (I2P) research course, which allows students to create their inventions during 1-2 semesters.

Participants receive grant funding, research credits, access to work space, mentorship, and guidance, said Trisha Smith, faculty support coordinator for CREATE-X.

“At the end of each semester, students are asked to participate in the I2P Showcase, which serves as a final project. In the Showcase, we have a panel of experienced faculty entrepreneurs rank the teams for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. The ranking is based on their progress through the semester, and their final prototype. First place receives an InVenture Prize Golden Ticket,” she explained.

School of Mechanical Engineering students Dallas Condra (above from left) and Jeremy Leff and School of Industrial Design student Vanya Padmanabhan received the first-place award for their customizable guitar effects pedal. Their product is called “disruption.”

Guitar effects pedals allow guitarists to alter, or distort, the sound of their instruments. On any given song they may want a different distortion.

Jeremy and Dallas started their project in 2016 when they first participated in Idea to Prototype. After completing their initial prototype in I2P, they were accepted into Startup Launch 2017. In the most recent Idea to Prototype Fall 2017, they brought on Vanya.

Their decision to create their own guitar effects pedal came from personal experience. Jeremy went shopping for a pedal, and was only able to buy one because of the cost. Currently each pedal only allows for one distortion. So buying multiple can be costly.

The two realized after an engineering class that they could make one themselves. They have created a pedal that uses removable cartridges, allowing musicians to have an affordable way to have more than one sound.

Right now PedalCreator had three pedals, each having two cartridges: a drive cartridge and a tone cartridge. By swapping out either cartridge you can change the sound.

Vanya initially was only working behind the scenes as she was studying abroad. By the fall Vanya had joined them back in Atlanta, bringing her experience in branding and marketing to the project, helping with things such as logos, posters and other print work.

After she took a look at their product, she offered her insight and experience as an industrial design student. She said she looked at it and said, “I can help this.”

“It was cool that it worked, but so much that could be improved from a design standpoint,” she said.

Dallas and Jeremy credit her with helping them win I2P.

Vanya now is working with them on the design of the product.

Should they win the $20,000, they plan to start work on the physical product and look into manufacturing. They also want to launch a Kickstarter, as much for publicity and customer discovery as for money. They are looking to learn if people really want this.

The team from Capstone -- GM Sensor Seat -- came through an industrial design senior studio class. Seniors are required to take one of three senior studio classes. In the class taught by Wayne Li and Steven Sprigle, ID/ME Collaborative Studio, students are required to participate in the Capstone Design Studio. The class also includes students from mechanical engineering.

At Capstone Design Expo graduating seniors present projects designed and built during the Capstone Design Course.

According to Li, “students are tasked with working on multi-disciplinary teams on real world, client projects. They are asked to run through a complete design process (customer/user discovery, empathy, ideation (sketches and models), prototyping, testing and refinement/evaluation).”

In the fall semester five industrial design teams participated in the Capstone Expo.

(The Wheelchair Dance Theatrical team, which was tasked with designing an improved wheelchair dance ramp, was chosen as the Best ID/ME Interdisciplinary team.)

The GM Sensor Seat team received a Golden Ticket inviting them to compete in the InVenture Prize competition.

On that team were industrial design students Megan Eberle, Annika Strauss, and Isabelle Zhang, expected to graduate this spring. Robert and Golda were mechanical engineering students, who graduated in December.

They were tasked with retrofitting a driver’s seat with sensors to collect data. The team outfitted a seat with three types of sensors: load bearing, temperature, and proximity.

Megan said the team initially was surprised how much data could be relayed into these sensors. And they considered what would they do with the data.

Some questions they asked were: What happens when autonomy becomes the norm? Even with a driver, could the seat still collect data and make decisions on its own? Would it be smart enough to read data from human interaction and make driving changes without the driver’s input?

Megan said they considered an app that could be connected to the car. Drivers could look at the data later and see where the most stressors were on the highway, and how personal stressors affected their driving conditions, posture, weight distribution, etc.

The driver could decide what to do with the data.

Although they received the Golden Ticket, this team chose not to participate in InVenture.

According to Megan, one reason was that two members had graduated.

But two other factors played a part in their decision.

First, she noted that the project was very much mechanically based and that was new to the ID students. They had not tackled a fully functional prototype before. Given the weight of the mechanical engineering part, they hesitated to go forward, without their teammates.

Second, their project was more like a startup. After winning the ticket, they had mixed emotions. It was a pleasant surprise to win, but none of them had the passion to continue.

And while they felt their odds of winning were good, in the end, they decided not to continue.