Wright State students pitch uses for sensor suit at Innovation Weekend

November 20, 2018

What if a soldier’s uniform could automatically tighten to create a tourniquet if wounded on the battlefield? Or what if emergency responders could inject a patient with a nanoparticle that would pinpoint hemorrhages or identify a type of stroke?

These two technology pitches were the winners of Wright State University’s second Innovation Weekend competition, held on campus Nov. 2-4. About 35 students, from freshman to senior, representing majors and colleges across the university’s offerings, participated in this second Innovation Weekend, as well as a few area high school students.

The November competition was sponsored by Leidos, a global leader in the integration of information technology, engineering and science. Leidos challenged the students to think of new applications for sensor garment technology that identifies internal injuries.

“We’re bringing forward real-world problems the students can solve,” Doug Leaman, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, said. “The goal is for the teams to be interdisciplinary.”

The first Innovation Weekend was held in April and focused on the transportation of military medical information.

The programming is part of a wider push to expand experiential learning opportunities for students, not only on campus, but also via internships and co-ops off campus, said Leaman, who came to WSU two years ago. As he met with representatives from regional companies, their message was consistent — they want students trained in interdisciplinary innovative activities.

Innovation Weekend kicks off Friday night when students learn about the challenge. Saturday they brainstorm ideas and form teams. Sunday they finalize those ideas and pitch to a panel of judges featuring regional experts — this time from Leidos, Wright State University and the Wright State Research Institute.

“We enhance the experiential culture in the college by engaging regional companies, and we give students a head start to understand the importance of getting out into that commercial, private sector,” Leaman said. “Ultimately, we hope to help fill some of the workforce needs in the region’s STEM fields.”

Nearly 90 percent of students within his college have a life science focus, he said, presenting an opportunity to make a significant impact in the expanding healthcare industry.

Additionally, this type of innovation training is vital to growing the region’s startup economy.

“I have a short background in running a biotech company,” Leaman said. “I have intimate appreciation for what’s involved in startups, taking a risk on tech. This goes hand-in-hand with innovation in a lab. These are important things.”

The first place team comprised Jeremiah Penick, Nathaniel Mack, Nabaa Hmood, Ian Finch, Daniel Hutcherson, Joshua Ehlinger, Liam Garry, Skyler Golden and Colin Gnam, working on the application of the sensors to identify type of stroke, bleeding, lung or heart problem, so paramedics and emergency room doctors can begin treatment faster. They split a $500 cash prize.

The second place team comprised Christina Davis, Bobby Leeper, Ethan Holbrook, Andrea Poole and Ryan Elam, innovating the sensor suit to automatically tighten in response to blood loss as measured by monitoring the pulse at a soldier’s extremities. They split a $250 prize.

Leaman is looking to hold the next Innovation Weekend in February or April 2019. The next few programs will likely offer a physics, long-range sensor, or biotech focus.

He is recruiting corporate partners to present prompts — for more information, contact him at [email protected].