Entrepreneurial students innovate to solve grand challenges

University faculty are not the only ones making an impact with their research – over the last few weeks WSU students have developed and been recognized for innovations that tackle grand challenges such as sustaining health around the world and developing sustainable resources. We wanted to take a moment to highlight these student teams, and demonstrate the impact that experiential education has not only on students’ development, but on their communities as well.

A medical product that improves health around the world

Bioengineering students Emily Willard and Katherine Brandenstein wanted to make an impact with their senior capstone project. As they scouted potential projects, they learned that contaminated needles used to give medical injections in developing countries spread disease and are a leading cause of death. To make the sterilization of needles an easy process in countries with limited resources, the students designed a non removable cap that attaches to the top of multi-dose vials of medicine, and sterilizes needles as they enter the vial. The innovation earned the students first place in UW’s Health Innovation Competition, awarding them with $10,000 that can go towards development of their product for real-world use. The students have launched a startup company, Engage, based around the product. If the company grows and thrives in Washington, their innovation will have both a local and global impact.

Working with utilities to tackle energy challenges

Students Francesca Wignes, Ian Lofquist, and Ozgenur Kavas of WSU Vancouver were selected to participate in a yearlong, collaborative research effort to find solutions to real-world challenges facing regional power utilities. The student teams will work directly with the Bonneville Power Administration and Portland General Electric, building a strong community of engineers and future engineers, and strengthening the regional workforce pipeline.

Developing energy-efficient option for low-income housing

A team of architecture and engineering students have developed walls from trash that could improve energy efficiency for low-income communities, while also finding a new use for waste. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the students $15,000 to improve their inexpensive wall designs, which the team hopes to market as a consumer product. The students also hope to provide plans for people to build the walls themselves. The team will travel to Washington, D.C. next month to present their TrashWall project at the National Sustainable Design Expo.

WSU programs for experiential learning and industry collaboration

We are inspired by these students, and the impact they are already having on their communities and the world. Entrepreneurship and hands-on learning are priorities at WSU. Here are a few resources for entrepreneurial students, and the companies who would like to engage with them: