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College of Engineering Batting .500 As Finalists for Innovation Challenge

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As the baseball season approaches with the speed of a 98 mph fastball, we are reminded that batting .500 would be a Hall of Fame batting average for anyone. That’s exactly what the College of Engineering will be hitting on April 7, when up to $65,000 in funding will be at stake during the annual Shark Tank-style contest taking place at the University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge Final Competition. There, three of the six finalists will be teams featuring engineering students! You can be there to hear the final teams pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges who will award big-money prizes to various deserving winners.

Root for our engineering teams as they compete for funding for their startup companies in the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship’s biggest competition of the year. The event will take place on Thursday, April 7, 2016 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the UMass Amherst Campus Center in the Amherst Room on the 10th Floor. Register here, only 150 seats available!

One of the engineering teams is called Brobar. Did you ever want to get some weight lifting done but couldn’t make it to the gym? Brobar might be your solution. It is as rack-less Olympic squat bar designed by mechanical engineering undergrads Jake Grenier, Daniel Miller, Alec McCabe, and Joseph Gifford. The multi-purpose workout tool is a cost-friendly option for people who want to do squat exercises without buying a large squat rack for their home, thus saving Brobar customers both money and space.

Glow is the second engineering enterprise, spearheaded by Abhishek Dwaraki, a doctoral candidate from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department. Dwaraki is tackling the Innovation Challenge from an entirely different angle. Dwaraki wants to use expertise in Software-Defined Networking (SDN) to revolutionize network troubleshooting and manageability tools. Dwaraki claims that Glow is more dynamic, manageable, cost-effective, and adaptable than iterations now being sold by large network providers.

The creative researcher behind Lumme Inc. is Dr. Akshaya Shanmugam, who received her doctorate from the ECE department in 2015, with Professor Christopher Salthouse of ECE as her advisor. This team is pioneering the use of sensors to figure out exactly when smokers desire to light up their next cigarette. This information would then be used for appropriate and perhaps immediate intervention, such as a motivational text message. The technology is also capable of integrating add-ons such as medications or even a phone call from a therapist to improve quit rates. The team has already completed a pilot study with 19 subjects, during which their sensors were able to predict the onset of smoking events with an accuracy of 95.74 percent. 

Over the past semester, the UMass Innovation Challenge has been inspiring students to create and pitch business ideas. From the Minute Pitch Competition to the Seed Pitch Competition, students have been awarded funding for their ventures and receiving professional advice from mentors.

Follow along with them on their journey to win thousands of dollars and potentially move on to the MassChallenge. It’s going to be an exciting ride. Check out the Innovation Challenge website or the Berthiaume Center website for more information about this exciting year-long event! (April 2016)