Press release

Top Collegiate Inventors Awarded Lemelson-MIT Student Prize

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Following a nationwide search for the most inventive college students,
the Lemelson-MIT Program today announced the winners of the 2019
Lemelson-MIT Student Prize. The prize recognizes young inventors who
have dedicated themselves to solving global problems. This year’s
inventions range from innovative, low-cost cancer screening tools to an
affordable clean water system, which ensures homes and families have
clean, safe water.

The Lemelson-MIT Student Prize is supported by The Lemelson Foundation,
and serves as a catalyst for young inventors in the fields of
healthcare, transportation and mobility, food/water and agriculture, and
consumer devices. The Program awarded a total of $90,000 in prizes to
three undergraduate teams and four individual graduate student
inventors, selected from a large and highly competitive pool of
applicants from across the United States. Students were selected based
on a variety of factors including: the overall inventiveness of their
work, the invention’s potential for commercialization or adoption, and
youth mentorship experience.

“We are inspired by the revolutionary work of this year’s winners. All
of the inventions are designed with the intention of making the world a
better place,” said faculty director of the Lemelson-MIT Program and
Associate Dean of Innovation at MIT’s School of Engineering, Prof.
Michael J. Cima. “We are proud of how dedicated these young inventors
are to combatting real-world problems.”

“We congratulate this year’s winners for their outstanding work tackling
significant challenges in order to improve lives both in the United
States and around the world,” said Carol Dahl, executive director at The
Lemelson Foundation. “This diverse group of students drives home the
opportunity that exists to inspire young minds across the country to
create the essential inventions of today and tomorrow.”

2019 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Winners

The “Cure it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize: Rewarding
technology-based inventions that involve healthcare.

  • Mercy
    Asiedu, Duke University, $15,000 Graduate

    majority of cervical cancer-related deaths occur in low and
    middle-income countries due to the lack of affordable screening
    technology. Mercy invented the Callascope, a high quality, low-cost,
    speculum-free device for cervical cancer screening and prevention. The
    device can be easily inserted into the vagina, like a tampon, either
    by a physician or for self-imaging/screening. It is fitted with a
    consumer-grade light source and camera to take images of the cervix
    from inside the body. The Callascope provides a cost-effective option
    for cervical cancer screenings in low-resource settings with limited
    available technologies. It can be connected to a mobile phone, tablet
    or computer, and is coupled with an algorithm that uses machine
    learning to classify cervix images as normal or pre-cancerous.
  • Ithemba:
    Laura Hinson, Madeline Lee, Sophia Triantis, and Valerie Zawicki,
    Johns Hopkins University, $10,000 Undergraduate Team Winner

    reusable, affordable, and contamination-free core needle breast biopsy
    device that is designed to support earlier breast cancer detection in
    low-resource settings. The reusable devices currently available on the
    market are expensive and require a 24-hour cleaning process. Ithemba’s
    novel device is not only affordable, but can also be sterilized
    instantly with a bleach wipe. With Ithemba’s device, performing breast
    biopsies will be significantly less expensive for hospitals and
    physicians in low-resource settings, and much safer for their patients.

The “Eat it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize: Rewarding
technology-based inventions that involve food/water and agriculture.

  • Julie
    Bliss Mullen, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
    , $15,000

    Julie’s company, Aclarity LLC,
    offers a scalable electrochemical water purification technology
    marketed initially for residential use that uses low amounts of
    electricity to zap contaminants in water through advanced oxidation
    reactions. The technology disinfects pathogens, destroys organic
    contaminants, removes metals, and normalizes pH to produce truly clean
    and safe water. It reduces maintenance, uses low energy and purifies
    water faster and more efficiently than conventional treatment methods
    in the U.S. and globally.
  • The
    BioEnergy Project: Enid Partika and William Tanaka, University of
    California San Diego, $10,000 Undergraduate Team Winner

    compact and scalable food-waste-to-food-and-fuel system that converts
    food waste from dining halls and restaurants into both nutrient-rich
    organic fertilizer that can be used to grow more food, as well as
    electricity that is generated from biogas. Right now, 40% of all food
    produced is wasted and dumped into landfills. When food decomposes in
    a landfill it generates methane, which is released into the
    atmosphere. Currently, food waste is responsible for 8% of the total
    anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions globally. The BioEnergy
    Project’s invention is a cyclical system that can tackle the
    environmental and agricultural concerns of food insecurity, the need
    for renewable energy sources, and addresses climate change by
    capturing and utilizing a methane source that would otherwise be
    released into the atmosphere from landfills.

The “Move it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize: Rewarding
technology-based inventions that involve transportation and mobility.

  • Federico
    Scurti, North Carolina State University, $15,000 Graduate Winner

    internal monitoring system for High Temperature Superconductors (HTS),
    consisting of a sensing system to detect local, incipient failures in
    the HTS wire that generates the magnetic field needed to operate
    electric motors or Magnetic Levitation (MagLev) trains. The sensing
    system is based on optical fibers embedded into superconducting wires
    that are able to prevent failure of the superconductor. This invention
    allows for reliable operation of HTS systems, thereby bringing HTS
    materials and systems to fruition via applications such as electric
    motors for carbon-free ships and aircrafts, carbon-free, high-speed
    MagLev trains, and nuclear fusion reactors for power generation.
  • Portal
    Entryways: Josh Horne and Morgen Glessing, Brigham Young University,
    $10,000 Undergraduate Team Winner

    A wireless device that
    opens disabled-accessible doors when a user approaches with the Portal
    smartphone application. A small wireless receiver is installed on the
    door and the user’s Portal app uses proximity to tell the door when to
    open upon approach. In addition to benefitting people with
    mobility-related disabilities, the system also enables facilities
    managers to track door usage data in order to maintain accessibility.

The “Use it!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize: Rewarding
technology-based inventions that involve consumer devices.

  • Arnav
    Kapur, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, $15,000 Graduate Winner

    headset-like device, AlterEgo, is a sensory and auditory feedback
    system, which uses neuromuscular signals from the brain’s speech
    system to extract speech. When we talk to ourselves internally, our
    brain transmits electrical signals to the vocal cords and internal
    muscles involved in speech production. With AlterEgo, an Artificial
    Intelligence (AI) agent is able to make sense of these signals and
    prepare a response. The user can hear the AI agent’s responses through
    vibrations in the skull and inner ear, thus making the process
    entirely internal. The AI agent can also send the information to a
    computer, to help an individual with a speech disability communicate
    in real-time.

Students interested in applying for the 2020 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize
can find more information here.
The 2020 Student Prize application will open in May 2019.


The Lemelson-MIT Program celebrates outstanding inventors and inspires
young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.

Jerome H. Lemelson, one of the most prolific American inventors, and his
wife, Dorothy, founded the Program at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in 1994. It is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and
administered by the School of Engineering at MIT, an institution with a
strong ongoing commitment to creating meaningful opportunities for K-12
STEM education. For more information, visit


Established in the early 1990s by Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson and based
in Portland, Oregon, The Lemelson Foundation uses the power of invention
to improve lives. Inspired by the belief that invention can solve many
of the biggest economic and social challenges of our time, the
Foundation helps the next generation of inventors and invention-based
businesses to flourish. The Lemelson Foundation was established in the
early 1990s by prolific inventor Jerome Lemelson and his wife Dorothy
and continues to be led by the Lemelson family. To date, the Foundation
has made grants totaling over $210 million in support of its mission.
For more information, visit