Engineering undergraduates take first place in 2021 ACC InVenture Prize competition

UV Scope

From left, Monique Reid, Keith Mellendorf, Chloe Sanchez-Prado and Alexander Allen

NC State’s team, made up of four undergraduate students from the College of Engineering, was selected as the first-place winner for the 2021 Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) InVenture Prize competition.

Biomedical engineering students Monique Reid and Chloe Sanchez-Prado teamed with electrical and computer engineering students Alexander Allen and Keith Mellendorf. The team is developing UV Scope, a handheld UV spectrometer that will enable food processing and medical professionals to measure the bacterial concentration of a surface in real-time.

The team aims to take technology that currently only exists in a research lab environment using extremely expensive equipment. They are building a compact device that leverages recent advancements in sensors and electronics to change the way sanitation is measured and validated everywhere.

The impact could be significant. Human error in hospital sanitation leads to hundreds of thousands of illnesses and thousands of deaths yearly from unnecessary infection due to insufficient validation of their procedures and chemicals. Additionally, food processing plants spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on ATP chemical test strips verifying their machines are safe for food production.

The team’s handheld, battery-operated device will feel much like a portable barcode scanner you may see employees use at the grocery store.

The first place trophy awarded to the NC State team.

“Instead of reading barcodes, we are looking at the concentration of bacteria present on a surface by transmitting ultra-violet light,” the team said. “Introducing bacteria to deep UV light makes them fluoresce, or emit their own different light. This light is still invisible to the human eye but we can detect it with our spectrometer and analyze the data to determine the concentration of bacteria.

“We believe this technology has the capacity to significantly limit the spread of disease and change how hospitals and the food industry operate.”

All four students are members of the College’s Engineering Entrepreneurs Program.

A Shark Tank-style competition where the best ACC university student entrepreneurs pitch before a live audience and panel of judges for cash prizes, the InVenture Prize competition was established in 2016 and is the nation’s largest undergraduate student innovation competition.

NC State served as host for the competition, which was held virtually this year on Wednesday, April 21. Thirteen of the 15 universities that make up the ACC competed for $30,000 in prizes. First and second place winners received $15,000 and $10,000, respectively, and were chosen by three industry judges.

Reachable Solutions representing the University of Pittsburgh received second place. Reachable Solutions helps people with limited mobility reclaim independence by assisting them to do daily tasks through simple, discreet, and affordable accessibility devices. The People’s Choice Award, determined by online voting in early April, was awarded to EATS2SEATS from UNC Chapel Hill, which provides fundraising opportunities for nonprofits by pairing them with event venues that need staffing help.

To learn more about the competition, and watch video of Wednesday’s program, visit accinventureprize.com.