The 12th annual “Create the Future” Design Contest for engineers, students, and entrepreneurs worldwide, sponsored by COMSOL and Mouser Electronics, attracted more than 1,074 innovative product ideas from engineers and students in 61 countries. The Medical category itself received 95 outstanding entries from 18 countries. Analog Devices and Intel were supporting sponsors.

Winners were selected in late September from the seven categories: Medical Products, Consumer Products, Electronics, Machinery/Automation/Robotics, Sustainable Technologies, Automotive/Transportation, and Aerospace & Defense. In addition to product ideas at the concept or prototype stage, contestants could, for the first time, submit designs for commercial products introduced to the market within the last 12 months.

The Grand Prize winner receives $20,000, while the first-place winner in each category will receive a Hewlett-Packard workstation computer. The top 10 vote recipients will receive a Sphero robotic gaming ball from Orbotix. The top 100 entries receive a Certificate of Achievement.

In addition to the winners and honorable mentions listed here, there were a number of entries in other categories with medical applications. Here are just a few. The winner of the Consumer Products category, the NanoFab a Box!, by a team from EChem Nanowires, Inc., is a kit that allows high school students to manufacture hi-tech patterned nanowires in the classroom, introducing them to nanotechnology and practical nanomanufacturing. Honorable Mention in that category is Quikiks, totally hands-free supportive footwear, by Hands-Free LLC, designed to help people with various physical or cognitive challenges to don their own footwear. Also in that category were two different navigation systems for visually impaired individuals that can help them navigate their way through unknown territory. In the Machinery/Automation/Robotics category, an entry for a Humanoid Robotic Wrist, and in the Electronics category, numerous components, including processors, power sources, and remote management systems, can be used in future medical devices.

This article introduces the Grand Prize winner, the Medical category winner, and two Medical category Honorable Mentions. The contest was established to recognize and reward engineering innovations that benefit humanity, the environment, and the economy. The top prize winners will be honored at an awards reception in New York City this month. Congratulations to all who entered. All of the entries can be seen at .

Grand Prize Winner

Robotic Building Construction by Contour Crafting

Behrokh Khoshnevis
University of Southern California (USC)
Los Angeles, CA

Fig. 1 – Contour Crafting uses 3D printing process to fabricate large construction components from architectural CAD models.
Behrokh Khoshnevis is a professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering, Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering, Astronautics Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Civil & Environmental Engineering and is the Director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies at USC. He developed the novel additive manufacturing processes called Contour Crafting (CC), a construction technology that potentially reduces energy use and emissions by using a rapid-prototype or 3D printing process to fabricate large components. Its computerized construction method 3D prints large-scale structures directly from architectural CAD models. Walls are built up by forming their outer surfaces via extrusion of a paste-like material, such as concrete, and the use of a robotic trowel to provide a smooth contoured surface. CC is a very flexible technique, capable of constructing aesthetically pleasing “organic” curvilinear shapes as easily as “boxy” rectilinear shapes. It has attracted strong interest from leading architects.

Contour Crafting automates the construction of whole structures, and radically reduces the time and cost of construction. The result could revolutionize the construction industry, and lead to affordable construction of high quality low-income housing, as well as the rapid construction of emergency shelters and on-demand housing in response to disasters. Contour Crafting is the first and only large-scale 3D printing technology that can rapidly construct complete buildings.

The Contour Crafting technology has the following unique features:

  • Reduces construction cost to about 30% of current cost
  • Speeds up the construction process by a factor of at least 50
  • Reduces construction injuries and fatalities (400,000 and 6,000 per year, respectively, in the US and more severe in developing countries)
  • Provides emergency shelter to the more than 37 million annual victims of war and natural disaster
  • Provides dignified housing to the low income population of the world
  • Contour Crafting eliminates construction wastes as the computer precisely adds material where it is needed.
  • Dramatically reduces construction energy usage (by 90%) and CO2 emission (by 70%)
  • Promises limitless architectural features such as curved walls.

During the last decade and under academic grants, the feasibility of the concept was demonstrated. Currently, there is a system that can build 400 sq. ft. structures with solid core or corrugated core walls. Within two years, with sufficient investment, it should be possible to demonstrate 24 hour automated construction of a full 2,500 sq. ft. structure. The team plans to build a light weight machine that will be easily deployable.

Khoshnevis says that the potential applications of this technology are far reaching, including but not limited to applications in emergency, low-income, and commercial housing. He says that this research also addresses the application of Contour Crafting in building habitats on other planets. It may be one of the very few feasible approaches for building structures on the Moon and Mars, which are being targeted for human colonization before the end of the new century.

For more information, visit: .

Medical Category Winner

HemeChip for Early Diagnosis of Sickle Cell Disease

Yunus Alapan, Ryan Ung, Megan Romelfanger, Asia Akkus,
Connie Piccone, Jane Little, and Umut Gurkan
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH

Fig. 2 – The HemeChip can rapidly, easily, and conclusively identify the hemoglobin type in blood to diagnose Sickle Cell Disease in newborns.
In Africa, Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), a common hemoglobin disorder, takes a dire toll as more than 800 children are born with the disease every day. More than half of them die in childhood due to lack of diagnosis and early treatment. In the US, hemoglobin screening of newborns is mandated for early diagnosis of hemoglobin disorders, so that monitoring and treatment can be started immediately. However, this strategy has not been widely available in Africa and other third-world countries, due to limited resources and the lack of technologies that can conveniently and quickly perform hemoglobin screening.

The most common screening methods are electrophoresis and high performance liquid chromatography. In the developed world, hemoglobin analyses can be obtained in one to two days. However, in third-world countries, hemoglobin testing can only be performed in central laboratories. Results can take two to four weeks, and this delay may be life-threatening. It may be impossible to reach the parents after they have left the health center. Therefore, there is a need for simple, rapid, and mobile analyses of hemoglobin types in newborn blood with which to diagnose hemoglobinopathies while the baby is still on-site.

The team at Case Western has developed a Hemoglobin-Electrophoresis Biochip (HemeChip) that can rapidly, easily and conclusively identify the hemoglobin type in blood to diagnose SCD in newborns. They utilized a microengineered design and microfluidic approach in HemeChip development.

Microfluidic technology allows a small sample volume (<20μL, fingerpick/heelprick blood), portability, ease of use, and low power consumption. The microchip system allows rapid manual assembly and is single use, to prevent potential cross-contamination between patients. HemeChip fabrication is suitable for mass-production, which is critical for translation of point-of-care technologies. At present, the materials cost for a HemeChip runs less than $5, and the team says that its cost is likely to decrease under mass production.

They plan to integrate a mobile imaging and quantification algorithm to achieve reliable and repeatable results even in resource-poor settings. The quantification algorithm will automatically plot intensity histograms along channels and highest intensity locations will be evaluated. Positions of healthy/sickle hemoglobin will be determined using the histogram plots, and results will be displayed on the screen.

Overall, HemeChip:

  • Works with minimal sample volumes (<20μL)
  • Is portable (pocket size)
  • Can rapidly analyze a drop of blood (<30min.)
  • Is cost-efficient (<$5)
  • Can be operated by minimally-trained personnel.

Team Leader Yunus Alapan said: “We believe adaptation and translation of high-end technologies in medicine from laboratory bench-top to the point-of-care has a lot to offer in diagnostics and monitoring of complicated diseases, such as sickle cell disease, in resource-limited settings. We hope this award will help us reach out to potential benefactors, investors and companies for further support in diagnosis of sickle cell disease in newborns.”

For more information, visit .

Honorable Mentions

UroCycler Automatic Bladder Management System

David Flinchbaugh, PhD
Tech Applications International LLC, Orlando, FL

Fig. 3 – The UroCycler Automatic Bladder Management System features a safe, pressure-sensitive magnetic valve attached to a catheter that can restore a natural function and prevent catheter-associated urinary tract infections.
The UroCycler Automatic Bladder Management System serves indwelling catheterized patients as a magnetic prosthetic sphincter system, which allows their bladder to function in a normal cyclic manner. This is important because indwelling catheter users are vulnerable to chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) and nearly 900,000 chronic UTIs are reported in America each year, while more than 99,000 Americans die each year from fatal catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

The key component of the UroCycler, a unique, very low pressure-sensitive magnetic valve, is attached to the proximal end of the indwelling Foley catheter exiting the body. This device is precision made to critical tolerances, assembled in a cleanroom environment, and utilizes carefully engineered inert ceramic permanent magnets to create a controlled attractive magnetic field strength to hold the valve closed initially. This stops the constant drip-drain traditional feature of the Foley-type catheter until a small pressure builds up within the filling bladder. When the urine pressure reaches a normal voiding value (about 20 cm height of a column of water), then the valve opens fully and the patient experiences a “normal” flow rate of urine exiting the body until the bladder is empty. In other words, this unique valve opens at a low, safe, appropriate pressure and remains open until the bladder is drained into a modified urine collection bag and there is no measurable fluid pressure remaining. This combination of performance features classifies the system as “hydrodynamically balanced” as well as serving as a positive unidirectional anti-reflux valve.

Clinical tests and studies conducted in hospitals have proven that UroCycler operates automatically, at little or no risk to the wearer, requiring only a monthly collection bag change. This system has been accepted and used in 72 countries and has received approval for use in more than 6,000 hospitals all over the US. It has earned the CE Mark, TGA, TUV, ISO 13485, and seven types of FDA certifications. Three trademarks, seven US patents, and many foreign patents help to protect its proprietary design and performance features.

For more information, visit 


Christopher LaFarge
MedicaMetrix, Wayland, MA

Fig. 4 – The ProstaGlove is designed to measure prostate volume and calculate PSA density.
ProstaGlove® is a novel medical device designed to measure prostate volume and enable calculation of PSA Density, which can be used to identify men with elevated PSA who are at high risk for clinically significant prostate cancer who should be recommended for Prostate Biopsy, saving billions of dollars through avoided biopsies and reduced overtreatment of non-aggressive prostate cancer.

ProstaGlove has two major components, a disposable glove with an inflatable balloon around the forefinger and fiber optic sensors and a separate hardware device with software to scale and interpret the signals from the glove and calculate and display the measurement to the urologist. When the balloon is inflated during use, it creates a clean void and positions calibrated grid on the surface of the rectal wall immediately proximate to the prostate.

Most males are screened for prostate cancer using PSA beginning at age 50. Men with PSA > 4.0 ng/ml (2.5 in in a risk group) are referred for prostate biopsy. Approximately 75% of the 1.1 million prostate biopsies performed in the US each year are negative. However, in the case of prostate cancer, it’s best to distinguish patients with aggressive cancer from those with no cancer or indolent cancer. Then treatment could be focused on patients with aggressive cancer, and patients with indolent cancer would be monitored through “watchful waiting.”

PSA Density (PSAD), the relationship of serum PSA to prostate volume (ng/ml/cc), is an effective marker for patients at risk of aggressive prostate cancer. ProstaGlove, with a cost of $40, enables low cost determination of prostate volume and PSAD, which could eliminate hundreds of thousands of biopsies and save hundreds of millions of dollars annually in the US.

For more information, visit .