“Resiliency” and “ingenuity” result in an innovative group of prototypes

Fall 2021 NYU Prototyping Fund Showcase

students giving a presentation at the NYU Prototyping Fund Showcase

Students Winnie Zheng and Kevin Joseph give a presentation of their project, SURFACE–Simple, User-friendly, Risk-reduction Following Apropos Cleaning in Environments, at the NYU Prototyping Fund Showcase 

Skateboards, fungi, nanosatellites ... those things don’t seem to have much in common on the surface, but each was the focus of a project presented during the Fall 2021 NYU Prototyping Fund Showcase, held in December. 

The Prototyping Fund is an initiative of the Design Lab @ NYU Tandon MakerSpace — with the support of the Department of Technology Management and Innovation and of Professor Nikhil Gupta through the New York City Future Manufacturing Collective (NYC-FMC) — that awards teams of students up to $500 in the first round of funding. (Teams are also connected to mentors and a variety of useful resources.)

“The NYU Prototyping Fund allows students the freedom to really experiment and learn through the early stages of the design process,” said Victoria Bill, founding director of the MakerSpace. “Every semester, it is amazing to hear and see the findings from each team, as they conduct research and get feedback on their prototypes. For Fall 2021, teams demonstrated resiliency and ingenuity as they eagerly demonstrated the mindset of the 'unconventional engineer' — being willing to break down silos and collaborate across disciplines to address pressing issues.”

Liz New, the assistant manager of the MakerSpace, oversaw the initiative this semester and played a major role in mentoring the student teams. “One of the things I love about the opportunity that the Prototyping Fund provides is that we reinforce the importance of growth through mistakes and the ability to iterate from failure,” she said. “Seeing the prototypes the students present after brainstorming and iterating is inspiring, and it is a joy to see their determination to find new ways of analyzing information and solving problems.”

Among the prototypes on display at the event were:

  • Trashy Wheels (Joseph Bishop and Andy Qin): An enterprise that converts recyclable plastics into high-performance wheels for skateboards or other conveyances. (Replacing polyurethane skateboarding wheels with recycled plastics, the team asserts, nearly halves the total CO2  footprint of wheel production.)
  • Portable Soundproof Booth for Vocal Training (Qinsong Tim Guo): In high school, Guo was an avid singer who conducted vocal training every day. After moving into an NYU residential hall, however, he realized that his practice would disturb his hallmates. His solution: a wearable soundproof device that allows for unrestricted jaw movement (important for singers), breathability, and portability.
  • ReConnectVR (Lauren Chun): A gamified method of using EEG and hand tracking gestures to manage stress.
  • Mundare (Daniel Zhang, Ali Fakhry, and Nick Pham): Developers of an autonomous drone equipped with a claw that can fly along a predetermined path, such as a shoreline, using a video camera and machine learning techniques to detect trash and collect it.
  • Fun Guy: (Maria Rehan, Nikareka Muniyasamy, and Alisha Mugunthan): Dismayed by the shipping industry’s excessive use of styrofoam packaging, the team set out to develop a more sustainable alternative and hit upon the idea of using mushroom mycelium (root-structure). Their innovative material, which resembles styrofoam in weight and feel,  is durable, sturdy, water-resistant, and biodegradable within 35-40 days. 
  • metal model of machine to test gaits
    TJL Linkage
    TJL Linkage (Thomas Belinky): Belinky, a mechanical engineering major, explains that Jansen's Linkage is a mechanism designed by the kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen that generates a smooth walking motion. (Jansen’s so-called “strandbeests” move in an eerily lifelike manner.) Belinky’s aim is to develop a TJL model capable of running different gait configurations on varying terrains — providing a possible boon to roboticists. 
  • Xtendicare (Sounak Ghosh, Lucas Wozniak, Zikang [Jack] Chen, Lilly Lin, Priya Ganguly, and Shinnosuke Komiya): A system combining EEG-based Brain-Computer Interface and virtual reality technology to provide neurofeedback in a virtual world, with possible applications in stress reduction, attention training, and accessible gaming.
  • V Shield (SeungHwa Lee, Aleka Raju, and Seoyoung Hong): With virus transmission on everyone’s mind, the team designed a cost-efficient air circulation system utilizing fans operated by a web interface switch.
  • SURFACE–Simple, User-friendly, Risk-reduction Following Apropos Cleaning in Environments (Winnie Zheng and Kevin Joseph, with Professor Debra Laefer): Researchers know that the Coronavirus can live on plastic and metal surfaces for three days and cardboard for 24 hours. In order to fight transmission risks, the team is developing a fully automatic, 3-D quality control mechanism for ensuring that indoor spaces are clean and virus-free. 
  • Communil (Jonathan Gao and Dimash Shubay): Gao and Shubay realized that rushing between classes makes it difficult to meet people on campus and that most NYU students do not connect outside of their classes. Their solution: an app that incorporates QR code technology to allow users to seamlessly share a bundle of their selected social media and contact information.
  • NYU CubeSat (Kavitha Rao, Alex Kelso, Emily Hsieh, Eva Ahmetaj, and Dara Wang): NASA is currently arranging for small cube satellites (CubeSats) built by universities and non-profit organizations to fly on upcoming launches. The initiative provides CubeSat developers with a low-cost pathway to conduct scientific investigations and technology demonstrations in space and obtain hands-on flight hardware development experience. The team aims to create and launch NYU’s first-ever CubeSat. 

Professor of Innovation, Design and Organizational Studies Anne-Laure Fayard (currently on-leave) is the founding advisor to the Design Lab and has spearheaded many of its initiatives such as the Prototyping Fund; she still advised the program this fall and felt the showcase capped off a particularly rewarding semester. “There’s nothing like seeing students from across the university working together to bring their ideas to life through prototyping and iterating,” she said. “As in previous years, several teams developed ideas to address issues related to sustainability and health. While it’s great to see teams honing their design and technical skills, the Prototyping Fund is also an opportunity for students to experience the value of collaboration and teamwork for innovation, and to develop invaluable skills for their future careers.”