Health + Behavior

UCLA hosts 24-hour invention competition to meet health care needs

The Inventathon encourages teams of young inventors to develop innovative solutions using the latest technology

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Inventathon 2013
Samantha Le/UCLA

A team of UCLA students working on their project during the 2013 Inventathon competition.

Just a stone’s throw from Silicon Beach — the epicenter of technology in Los Angeles — the Business of Science Center at UCLA, with support from the Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology and Center for Digital Behavior, is spurring innovation as the organizer of the second-annual Inventathon.

This event is a unique 24-hour competition designed to develop solutions for pressing healthcare needs using the latest device technology and mobile applications.

Watches that track more than time and augmented reality glasses worn like conventional glasses, but that also house a tiny computer, are just the latest examples of wearable devices. Inventathon is designed to help young inventors harness similar technologies for use in the healthcare field.

Inventathon kicks off Oct. 15 with the announcement of the health care need to be addressed. Teams then have a couple of days to assemble before the actual competition starts on Oct. 17. Once the competition begins the teams will work around the clock to develop and eventually present their ideas to a panel of judges. The product could be a mobile app, conceptual drawing or embedded or wearable device. Mentors from UCLA and industry will be available during the entire process, which is designed to help participants hone their research and entrepreneurial skills.

The 24-hour inventing marathon serves as the concluding event of UCLA Innovation Week, organized by Bruincubate, a collection of 14 different groups at UCLA dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship. Bruincubate is hosted by the UCLA Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Sponsored Research. Innovation Week brings together UCLA’s entrepreneurial organizations to help students, faculty, and staff explore and grow their ideas into tangible products. In addition to the Inventathon, events include talks, a career fair and mixers.

The Inventathon competition will take place at the UCLA California NanoSystems Institute. “This event supports future inventors and entrepreneurs,” said Shyam Natarajan, a Business of Science program director and a Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology researcher, who helped launch the event last year. “We are excited to see raw science talent paired with business and design expertise to develop and jumpstart ideas.”

Medical technology inventors of all levels, from undergraduates and graduate students from UCLA and other universities are welcome. Organizers encourage the teams, consisting of three to five participants, to include a wide range of skills from the medical field, engineering, art, design and business.

During the 24-hour competition, the teams will have access to tools such as 3-D printers, augmented reality glasses that can be used to help design and test applications for wearable devices, and special boards to help make mini computer chips, which are the brains behind the applications.  

“Competitions like Inventathon get students to think there are no walls that will inhibit them,” said Roy Doumani, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and executive director of the Business of Science Center. “The experience is invaluable in developing the skill set needed to succeed in developing and pitching a product. Participants are mentored throughout the competition and we want to thank our mentors for their extremely valuable support and time.”

Additional programs on UCLA’s campus help students even after the competition. The Business of Science Center offers a course called Advancing Bioengineering Innovations designed to teach medical device design and to develop practical solutions for unmet medical needs. The program is a collaboration among the Department of Bioengineering in the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

“There is huge potential for the latest remote monitoring applications and devices to support and track health care needs,” said Sean Young, assistant professor of family medicine and executive director of the Center for Digital Behavior at UCLA. The center brings together academic researchers and private sector companies to study how social media and mobile technologies can be used to predict and change behaviors that impact health. “Events like Inventathon are a great resource and learning opportunity for students.”

The second annual Inventathon will start on Wednesday, Oct. 15 with a kick-off event to announce the type of health need to be solved and to start assembling teams. Competition begins at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 17 and the competition concludes Saturday, Oct. 18 at 6 p.m.

The public is invited to watch the final pitches to the judges and the announcement of the winners, which will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The UCLA Clinical Translational Science Institute is a collaborator on the event. This project received support from the following NIH/NCATS grant to the UCLA Clinical Translational Science Institute: UL1TR000124.

Inventathon sponsors include: Option3, LLC; Cardiovascular Systems; Epson America; SparkFun Electronics; UCLA Blum Center for Poverty and Health in Latin America; KARL STORZ Endoscopy-America; Hitachi Aloka Medical America; UCLA Center for World Health; Lob; California NanoSystems Institute, UCLA AIDS Institute and UCLA Health.

For more information about Inventathon and sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.UCLAideas.com.

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