University of Rochester

Home-Based Monitoring Inventions Win Forbes Entrepreneurial Award

May 27, 2008

Two health-monitoring inventions and an identity confirmation system designed by senior engineering students at the University of Rochester have won the University's Charles and Janet Forbes Entrepreneurial Awards this year. The award comes with a prize of $3,600 for the first-place winner, and $1,500 for each of the second-place teams.

The first-place winners were biomedical engineering students James Bai, Sarah Hotaling, Huy Le, and Nathan Ross, who were supervised by Nick Kuzma, assistant professor of biomedical engineering. Their design, the "sAMY Monitor," is a small device that can track a patient's daily stress levels while being simple and non-invasive enough that it doesn't add to that stress. As part of a person's regular morning routine, a patient can simply place a small straw-like device in her mouth, and the device quickly measures the amount of amylase in the saliva. Amylase is released into the saliva during stress, so the device can make a reasonably accurate measurement fairly quickly, and can relay that information to a doctor or a computer where the data is stored. This can give doctors vital information about a patient's stress levels when the patient herself may not be aware she is stressed.

One of the devices that tied for second place was designed by biomedical engineering students Ashley Cronin, Nick Mikolenko, Brad Ochocki, and Brandon Smoller, who were supervised by Axel Wismueller, associate professor of biomedical engineering. Their invention, the "ToiletMD," also provides a method to help elderly patients monitor their health from home. The device is designed to help the elderly to manage their own health and to alleviate the strain that an increasingly aging population will place on the healthcare system. Once fully integrated with a substance-identification system developed by Andrew Berger, associate professor of optics, the toilet will be able to detect many kinds of medication that pass through the body and into urine, and thus the device can tell if a patient has taken his proper doses. This form of monitoring prescription drug use could provide a simple way for elderly patients, especially those with some cognitive impairment, to remain living independently and safely at home, rather than under the constant supervision of a doctor or nurse.

Also tied for second place was the rKEY project by electronic and computer engineering students Kyle Aures, Scott Warren, Aaron Wescott, and Adam Williamson, and supervised by Gaurav Sharma, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. The team adapted wireless technology to function as a keyless entry system that can identify different people approaching a door. A person simply holds a keycard with embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) technology near the door, and a detector reads the card and either unlocks the door, or if the card holder is a guest, the device provides a customized ring or "dingtone" to alert the owner of the house that a specific guest is at the door. This would allow the owner to know if the person at the door was a trusted friend. The system is readily re-programmed to disable lost or stolen RFIDs—a feature that offers improved security and convenience over conventional physical key-based systems.

The Charles and Janet Forbes Entrepreneurial Award was established in 1989 to encourage University undergraduate engineering students to consider the commercial potential of their design projects or research. Students, individually or in teams, compete by submitting a business plan for a manufacturing or a technical business, often based on their senior design projects.