OMAHA, Nebraska (August 23, 2023)—UNeMed announced today the winners of the most recent “Back-o-the-Napkin Contest,” selecting two inventions to receive further development guidance and prototyping.
Selected from a total of 16 entries, the winning ideas were a device from UNMC’s Pukhraj Rishi for improving retina exams and a body-powered exoskeleton developed by Sara Myers, PhD, at UNO.
“We had a great crop of entries,” UNeMed licensing specialist and contest director Tyler Scherr, PhD, said. “We can only prototype two this time around, but we’re hopeful that more than half of those entries could still be further developed into some really interesting solutions.”
The contest received entries from inventive faculty across 10 departments, and included several inter-campus collaborations between UNMC, UNO and UNL.
“We don’t really expect collaborations for a contest like this, so that was a pleasant surprise,” Dr. Scherr said. “Our most promising inventions typically are highly collaborative, so it’s great seeing that, obviously. Especially when you consider that our primary objective with this contest was to hear from people who might have just the beginning of an idea, but might be intimidated or just unfamiliar with our formal invention disclosure process.”
On average, UNeMed, the technology transfer and commercialization office for UNMC and UNO, will process about 100 new inventions every year from faculty and staff. The nature of inventions vary widely, ranging from software solutions and novel therapies to research tools and medical devices.
Contest entries were strictly limited to devices or other inventions that would require physical prototyping for further development.
“Too often some really great ideas never get off the ground for a lack of resources,” Dr. Scherr said. “A lot of times a quick prototype can really move the ball forward, and that’s another big reason for the contest. We want to give every invention its best chance to succeed, and we now have two great ideas that will go through the advanced prototyping process.”
Those winners were “Light Pipe Retinal Viewer” and “Energy Harvesting Exoskeleton.”
Pukhraj Rishi’s “Light Pipe Retinal Viewer” combines two standard eye exam devices for more comprehensive retinal examinations, without the need for an assistant.
Dr. Myers’ “Energy Harvesting Exoskeleton” collects and stores energy from “heel-strike” and then mechanically distributes to “toe-off” to help propel the wearer forward, helping alleviate fatigue or weakness due to injury or illness.
UNeMed and the UNMC Great Plains IDeA-CTR co-sponsored the contest, in collaboration with the James and Karen Linder Maker Studio at UNMC’s McGoogan Library, the UNO Machining and Prototyping Core in the Department of Biomechanics and the UNeTech Institute.