More avenues than ever are opening up for young people to contribute to all aspects of life. The Lemelson-MIT program celebrates these outstanding inventors and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention. The winners of this year’s prizes range in incredible talents and focuses, but the healthcare and wellness winners presented interesting, thoughtful inventions that could literally change millions of lives.
Kale Rogers, Michael Farid, Braden Knight, and Luke Schlueter, MIT
Fast food has meant unhealthy food for so long, but the “Eat It!” $10,000 undergraduate team winners from Spyce Kitchen are aiming to change that expectation. Their tiny automatic restaurant, which includes a fridge, dishwasher, stovetop, and robo-chef all in one, could revolutionize the fast food landscape, where half of restaurant budgets are spent on labor and operations.
Through the Spyce Kitchen, healthy meals with fresh ingredients can be cooked in under five minutes. Patrons can currently order five different meals using a smartphone app or a touch screen next to the machine. Two meals can be made at a time in this 20 square foot kitchen, which its inventors say can produce about half the amount of food a full-sized fast food restaurant produces.
The team believes the Spyce Kitchen could revolutionize the fast food industry since it doesn’t rely on any human workers and produces nutritious meals at low prices.
Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi, University of Washington
For years, Google Translate has been helping students finish their Spanish and French assignments, and lost tourists find the closest bathroom. But the deaf community has not had a viable tool to communicate with people who do not know American Sign Language (ASL), until now.
SignAloud, the $10,000 “Use It!” undergraduate winner of the Lemelson-MIT prize, are gloves that record hand positions and movement. The data collected from the movements is sent to a computer, which looks for a match to ASL and speaks the word or phrase so the hearing person can understand.
These globes are reportedly more accurate than other products out there, and are more user-friendly.
“Our purpose for developing these gloves was to provide an easy-to-use bridge between native speakers of American Sign Language and the rest of the world,” said Navid Azodi. “The idea initially came out of our shared interest in invention and problem solving. But coupling it with our belief that communication is a fundamental human right, we set out to make it more accessible to a larger audience.”
Jason Kang, Katherine Jin, and Kevin Tyan, Columbia University
In perhaps what is the most simplistic but most impactful winner of the Lemelson-MIT prize this year is Highlight, a brightly colored powder than can be mixed with disinfectant just before it’s used. But why is colored bleach so important?
Healthcare workers treating the Ebola outbreak in 2013 were susceptible to the disease, despite wearing space suits, using disinfectant, and taking other precautions. Close to 900 healthcare workers got sick: over 500 died.
The problem that Highlight solves is one of visibility: cleaners and disinfectants are often clear, so it’s difficult to tell if every inch of the space suit has been adequately cleaned. Highlight is a patent-pending, powdered additive for disinfectant solutions that enhances the process of infectious disease decontamination and ensures the safety of healthcare workers. And it fades over time to indicate when decontaminate is complete.