2020 Health Make-A-Thon Winners Set to Launch Health Innovation Ideas

Ten winning teams from Carle Illinois College of Medicine’s second-annual Health Make-a-Thon competition each will receive $10,000 in resources, materials, and mentorship, and access to UIUC’s Health Maker Lab network of design and making facilities to design, fabricate and prototype their ideas.

Students, healthcare practitioners and citizen-scientists from 16 Illinois counties pitched their ideas for improving health at the virtual August event. The 20 finalists, selected from 75 original submissions, pitched their ideas to judges in a “dolphin tank (DT),” a friendlier version of the “Shark Tank” TV show format.

The ten winning teams pitched a variety of health and wellness ideas, ranging from apps to art to devices to redesigned wheelchair wheels. The winners included campus and community members and a high school student; their innovative ideas are listed below:

  • Anemone: A Safe Space in Your Phone by Ananya Cleetus
  • Development of a Low-Cost, Portable, Non-Invasive, Positive Pressure Ventilation Device by Mobola Kukoyi
  • MePanel: An At-Home Compact and Multifunctional Metabolic Panel Test by Joy Chen and Adam Dama
  • Paperometer by Shonit Nair Sharma
  • PillSafe Smart Cap by Ariana Alam Mizan
  • Projectscape by Sebastian Souryris, Aaron Brown, and Nekita Thomas
  • Sepsig—Our Fight for Early Detection of Sepsis by Kavya Sudhir, Sanjana Chunduri, Saloni Garg, and Trisha Yada
  • Shift: Wheelchair Redesign by Wen Kun Yuan, Anna Chi, and Jessica Hung
  • Single Action Needles by Dylan Peters and David Kostryra
  • Ultrasonic Visual Aid by Emily Jean Smith, Natalie Ramsy, and Catherine Stauffer

Carle Illinois medical student Shonit Nair Sharma described his winning idea, the “Paperometer,” as an incentive spirometer made out of paper which could be used for respiratory rehabilitation in patients with coronavirus-related pulmonary symptoms. His idea could reduce the cost and environmental burden of medical devices such as respirators.

“Playing around with these respiratory rehabilitation devices, I noted some recurring design flaws and I saw an opportunity to innovate,” he said. “I very much enjoy the process of innovating—from identifying a need, to coming up with ideas to meet that need, to implementing a solution.”

Each of the finalists’ teams was assigned 2-3 mentors. Sharma says he had two great mentors, Drs. Mukund Chorghade and Holly Golecki, who helped him prepare his presentation. Dr. Golecki also offered him an exciting opportunity: “After winning for my Paperometer idea, I am planning to sponsor a capstone design team at UIUC, guiding senior bioengineering undergraduate students through the innovation process,” he said.

Twenty-two judges – comprised of community members, educators, industry representatives, entrepreneurs, health professionals, scientists and engineers – asked questions, provided constructive feedback, and voted on each team’s idea and pitch. Nearly 300 online attendees from 10 countries also had the opportunity to vote.

“I was struck by the breadth of topics, from artwork to food to mental health and ventilators,” said DT judge John Flygare, a biotech scientist from the San Francisco bay area. “Most pitches I have seen in my work don’t have that kind of diversity or connection to global needs.”

DT judge Lynn Hassan Jones, a diagnostic radiologist from Minnesota added, “I really liked the diversity of ages among the finalists and the amazing solutions to health and medical challenges.”

In addition to UIUC and Carle Illinois, the 2020 Health Make-a-Thon was sponsored by Autodesk, Busey Bank and Carle Clinic.