Axon-way (top) and Deep Word took home top honors.
Ideas without action quickly dissolve.
The Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge ensures some ideas will live a long time.
Eight teams of students presented their technological innovations to a panel of judges during the Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge, a competition that encourages students to use technology in innovative ways to address compelling problems. Students with a wide variety of academic backgrounds competed via Zoom for a total prize of $20,000.
“This is the sixth year we have run the competition, and I have been consistently impressed by the technological innovations which students have developed,” said Travis Brown, senior executive assistant dean of innovation, entrepreneurship, and commercialization at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering. “I was especially impressed by what students have managed to build this year despite having to work off-campus. The pool of applicants was as strong as it has ever been. We have managed to develop a thriving competition which affords students the opportunity to showcase their innovative thinking, specifically in respect to building technology which is novel, nonobvious, user-centered, technologically feasible, and implementable. Each year, the technological innovations the students present have grown more impressive.”
The top prize went to Axon-way, which uses diffuse MRI for studying and locating abnormalities in neural pathways in the brain and is led by Bramsh Chandio and Britain Taylor, both Ph.D. candidates in intelligent systems engineering in the Luddy School. Axon-way is a software tool that finds the effects of neurological and psychological conditions on white matter structural connectivity of the brain. It can help neuroscience researchers study and understand the effects of brain conditions on brain connectivity, test new hypotheses about the brain, and help surgeons in pre-surgical planning and post-surgical validation while also helping early diagnosis of brain conditions on brain connectivity.
“It was a wonderful experience participating in the Cheng Wu competition,” Chandio said. “Winning the first prize in the competition has further motivated us to keep building our solutions to fight neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Epilepsy, and so on. Axon-way was an idea, but now with the help of the Cheng Wu competition prize, Britain and I are going to shape it into a product. For me, it’s a beginning of a new journey—from an engineer to an entrepreneur.”
Axon-way earned $15,000 of the prize money.
“Winning a prize in the competition re-assured both Bramsh and I that we are supported,” Taylor said. “We both have been working really hard to use our software development background to produce technological innovations within healthcare. The funds from the Cheng Wu Innovation Challenge will support us as we update our project into a viable product for the market and turn Axon-way into a company. Our next steps are to obtain a provisional/utility design patent for the user-friendly interface and closed-source code we created. Our vision is to work diligently on Axon-way and commercialize the product immediately.”
Another project, Deep Word, earned the remaining $5,000. Team members Ankush Bikkasani, who is majoring in finance at the Kelley School of Business, Dipam Vasani, who is pursuing a master’s in data science at Luddy, and Rishabh Gajra, who is a graduate student in the computer science department, created a tool that can allow users to automatically create videos using artificial intelligence. Video production typically has been time and cost intensive, but Deep Word can turn a 10-second video of a person talking into a 10-minute speech with the use of AI to lip sync the footage. Users simply upload audio or text of the needed speech, and the software manipulates the video footage to fit the speech.
The process is designed to facilitate the video production of lectures and tutorials for elearning, corporate training, breaking news, and other applications.
Other projects included Elevate, an application that tracks the movements of elevators in a building from Kelley students Casey Curtis, Sophia Schmidt, and Maddie Athanasiou, and Casey Daleiden from the Luddy School; The Gamma Realm, an augmented reality game for people living with Alzheimer’s Disease from Mike Szakaly, Dillon Fleener, and Maya Szakaly from the Luddy School; Odyssey, a platform that increases connections between citizens and politicians with an eye on a more stable and informed democracy, from Sunny Gandhi of the Luddy School; Onboard Manuals, an app that creates immersive, 3D models of user manuals to create a better customer experience, from Cherif Redissi of the Luddy School; Pocket Scientist, a platform that updates users on information about scientific papers, from Ryan Danehy, Joshua Dulski, and Danny Mishler of the Luddy School; and reset, which provides biofeedback for users suffering from anxiety, from Jacob Heyerdahl of the Luddy School.
“When we launched the challenge back in 2016, students struggled to understand the difference between the innovative thinking we were working to encourage and the entrepreneurial thinking we celebrate through the Clapp IDEA Competition run by the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Kelley School of Business,” Brown said. “The goal was to facilitate students developing radical innovations before building a business around them. The strength of the technological innovations that we saw presented this year is a testament to our success in that endeavor.”