University engineering students tackle real-world needs with game-changing ideas

DALLAS, TX -- With a growing demand for problem-solving technology, the pressure is on for engineering students to be industry-ready upon graduation. To aid in student readiness, Texas Instruments (TI) hosted the TI Innovation Challenge Design Contest in North America, in partnership with Mouser Electronics, where future engineers were tasked with using TI technology to create solutions tackling challenges faced by our world today.

Of the nearly 180 teams entering technology solutions, three final teams were recognized at the annual award ceremony on July 19 in the TI Engineering and Innovation Hall at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. Their inventions addressed problems in the medical, space and health and wellness industries. After a day of touring a TI manufacturing facility and innovation center, the students presented their projects to TI business leaders and contest judges, with the winning project being out of this world—literally.

1. First place: Dakotah Karrer, Vince Rodriguez, David Smith and Trent Tate from Texas A&M University took the expression "shooting for the stars" to a new level when they were named the overall winners for their project, TSat RF Satellite Communication. The students worked with Texas Space, Technology, Applications and Research (T-STAR) to create a prototype of a space communication system, which will be used to conduct low-Earth orbit research, a crucial need for growing space exploration efforts.

The critical long-range wireless communication for the satellite is provided by TI's Sub-1 GHz CC1120 RF transceiver with the CC1190 RF front-end amplifier which provides reliable communication and data from the T-STAR satellite to an Earth station.

2. Second place: Awarded to Texas A&M students David Cuevas, Nathan Glaser, Joe Loredo and Rafael Salas for their Powered, Programmable Elbow Orthosis. The brace-like device uses a TI ultra-low-power MSP432™ microcontroller (MCU) to stabilize, limit and assist elbow movements to restore upper arm functionality to users suffering from a range of injuries or disorders which weaken muscles and muscular activity.

3. Third place: Matthew Bries and Nagaraj Hegde from the University of Alabama brought home this distinction for SmartStep a device that uses a TI Bluetooth® low energy CC2540 wireless MCU to wirelessly monitor a user's activity through the insole of their shoes, which is displayed to the user through a smartphone app the team developed. The SmartStep is 99 percent accurate in detecting when a user is sitting or standing, two activities that are difficult for many commercially-available activity trackers to distinguish.

Winning projects are selected for their use of engineering practices and are judged on industry-ready standards, such as quality of the design and written documentation and effective use of TI technology. Cash prizes were awarded to the top three winners to help further the development of their design or to go toward academic pursuits: $10,000 for first place, $7,500 for second place, $5,000 for third place and $1,000 for categorical prize winners.

Congratulations to teams who placed in the category prizes:
•Best chance at commercialization: University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez – DynoCloud Exotic Pet Habitat System
•Best video demonstration: University of Florida – Pocket Passive SONAR
•Best use of TI wireless technology: Purdue University – TrackRx
•Most innovative home application: Carnegie Melon University – Autonomous Robotic Weeder
•Most unique concept: Rowan University – Tesla Art Installation
•Best overall use of TI products: University of Puerto Rico - Mayaguez – Rotator Display
•Best environmental: Florida State University – Home Energy Management System
•Best humanitarian: University of Wyoming – Futuristic Energy Saving Lighting System
•Best semester project: University of Texas at Austin – Handy Dandy Mirror Mirror

Learn more about the TI University Program and the TI Innovation Challenge at

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