‘Wi-fi for energy’ wins Penn invention competition

    Two University of Pennsylvania students who designed a wireless energy transmitter took the $5,000 top prize at Friday’s PennVention competition.

    Ten teams of student inventors from the University of Pennsylvania who made it to the event’s final round pitched their ideas to industry professionals who were looking for feasible products that could make it to market.

    Penn senior Meredith Perry got the idea for her team’s invention when she inadvertently left her laptop charger at home one day. The idea? Wireless charging stations. Like wi-fi, but for energy.

    “You know, we were expecting, since we’re not electrical engineers, to be laughed at,” Perry said. “But every single person we’ve talked to has said ‘Wow, that’s clever, and we’d really like to explore that further.'”

    Perry and roommate Nora Dweck, also a senior, designed a plug-in wall device to transmit ultrasound waves. The idea is to capture and convert those waves to electrical energy with a device that plugs in to USB ports or laptops. They say they have made a model that transmits energy for a few inches, but they need different equipment for the real deal. They are in the process of applying for a patent and plan to start looking for investors.

    Mathieu Turpault, director of design at Bresslergroup, a design and development firm was one of the event’s judges.

    “I’m a skeptic, so I’m always trying to pick things apart. But I think there’s an idea there,” Turpault said. “It would be a very convenient design for a lot of people.”

    He said he will need more evidence that Perry and Dweck’s design could actually work, but said many companies are looking into wireless energy now and the concept is a good one.

    “There’s a lot of good ideas that led to actual companies out of this particular event,” Turpault said. “It is always impressive.”

    Other final-round projects included a salsa jar designed for easier dipping and a mobile phone application that translates Chinese text once a user has taken a picture of it.

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