UC Merced’s Innovate to Grow expo starts Friday

05/14/2014 1:25 AM

05/14/2014 1:26 AM

Science, technology, engineering and math will be front and center during a competition and expo Friday at UC Merced.

The annual Innovate to Grow expo at UC Merced kicks off at 11 a.m. with events all over the campus, including demonstrations of inventions, blue-ribbon panels and cash prizes. The events are free and open to the public.

During the competition, student teams present the results of their projects and demonstrate their innovations to a jury of industry and community representatives. The students use posters, elevator pitches, videos and presentations to make their cases.

“Innovate to Grow is an annual celebration of our students’ creativity, and is our launching pad for enterprises based on some of the most promising inventions and solutions they have developed,” School of Engineering Dean Dan Hirleman said in a news release.

Multiple provisional patent applications have been filed on inventions coming out of student projects, further exemplifying the creativity of UC Merced students, as well as the commercial relevance of the work they are performing, Hirleman said.

Patents are big business for the University of California system, which made $106 million in royalty and fee income last year, according to the UC Technology Commercialization Report 2013.

This is the third annual Innovate to Grow competition, which is the culmination of spring semester activities for a number of engineering groups and projects led by students.

Within the UC system, Merced ranks second only to UC Irvine for students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math fields. About 48 percent of UC Merced’s students graduate with a degree in one of those fields.

This year’s event will for the first time include the Wells Fargo Accelerator Award, which provides funding to propel student innovations toward the marketplace.

Southern California Edison is the lead sponsor for this year’s event. “Southern California Edison is proud to be supporting these students in solving engineering challenges in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Les Starck, senior vice president for regulatory policy and affairs, in a news release.

Student teams work with agencies and nonprofits throughout the region that have engineering design challenges and are looking for solutions. Some of this year’s community partners include the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Children’s Hospital of Central California, Kaiser Permanente, Hilmar Cheese, Duarte Nurseries, California Department of Water Resources, E.&J. Gallo Winery, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Yosemite National Park.

The teams’ work this year includes automated pest management for agriculture using drones; wildfire perimeter monitor drones; a centralized patient alarm system and headgear for tethering breathing tubes to neonatal patients for area hospitals; a new harvester alignment system for reaping sweet potatoes; automated grape-plant grafting; a system that refines biochar to filter water; a propane-bottle recovery system for Yosemite National Park; and a sensor system to monitor river flows, among other projects.

For a full schedule of the day’s events, including judging and awards presentations, visit http://innovatetogrow.ucmerced.edu.

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