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Five winners announced after Tech Hub Student Grant Pitch Night

Team member Mohammed Aboulesoud addresses the audience during his pitch for “Tas,” a bandana with electrical circuiting that could non-invasively alleviate depressive symptoms in the brain. Courtesy of Tech Hub

Mapping mountains in 3D, stimulating the brain and expressing human emotion through glass art were just a few of the ideas presented at Tech Hub’s annual Student Grant Pitch Night.

Five winners were announced for funding after a night of presentations that included 3D mountain mapping, “Handikapp,” “Unite the World,” Activated Art, and non-invasive deep brain stimulation.

Forrest Schoessow, geography Ph.D. student at the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center, led the presentation for his team’s 3-D mountain-mapping project, which is aimed at using a drone to observe glacial retreat in Peru. The autonomous drone 3-D maps the glaciers and how they’re changing.

“It’s a high-altitude, weather-proof platform, and it’s also zero emission, meaning we can charge everything using solar panels in the field,” Schoessow said about the drone. “And this is really making it a lot safer for us and really increasing our ability to see what’s going on up there.”

Jen Schlegel, a fourth-year in biomedical engineering, pitched her project idea “HandiKapp,” a visual coding language app that would allow those with physical disabilities, such as Schlegel who only has good use of four fingers, to use a point-and-tap interface for common coding.

“Accessibility has been left out of the conversation or added in as an afterthought,” Schlegel said. “There’s no current way for someone like me to code, to contribute to the software conversation.”

Another app presented was “Unite the World,” which would connect people to create more empathetic and diverse communities. The app would use technology to bring people together through randomized matching based on similar interests.

“That feeling that you get of having a meaningful conversation, learning from a new perspective and then connecting on a deeper level, that’s what we’re trying to build out,” Brad Herndon, team member and third-year in finance, said. “We recognize that the issue is lack of connectivity and social segregation.”

“Activated Art,” a project by Rebecca Arday, a first-year Ph.D. student in art, tests the properties of glass strands to ultimately observe human interaction in a different way.

“I’ve always been really fascinated by the idea that objects can communicate human emotion of empathy, apathy, longing, loss, and how objects and artworks can [offer] insight [into] surreal and emotional experiences,” Arday said. “The work that I’m doing now is an exploration of how objects can engage an audience through interaction. And it’s all made possible through electronics.”

The final winner was a project involving non-invasive deep brain stimulation and the treatment of depression via a bandana containing electrodes.

“What we want to do is use the bandana to create these emblems on these certain circuits of the brain to help alleviate depressive symptoms,” Mohammed Aboulesoud, a second-year in neuroscience and mathematics, said.

Finalists presented their projects to an audience who voted through Qualtrics, a survey software, on its favorite presentations, which helped contribute to the judge deliberation following the event.

“Really the only criteria for this is a technology-related idea,” Sydney Kuehn, marketing and communications coordinator for Tech Hub, said. “So, there aren’t too many constraints on it. We want you to be innovative, creative, use whatever background you have, but we really value originality.”

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