The NYU Entrepreneurial Institute and Greenhouse at the School of Engineering held their Third Annual Prototyping Fund showcase on December 4th. Ten teams (representing seven NYU schools) were chosen from over 50 applicants to participate in the program where they received training on best practices for prototyping and up to $500 to be used to build a hardware or software prototype.
All the teams’ projects were inspiring and thought –provoking, each trying to solve an identified problem. They covered a range of topics from a hands-free Electronic Medical Record interface solution (InVisix) to an electronic coaster that gives live notifications to remind users to drink fluids (Hydrate.me). Sensory Soles created a game to bring physical and occupational therapy to life for children with hearing impairments by increasing their motivation and engagement as they play a game. Claire Bradley, (Steinhardt, ‘15), Ting-Yun Yah, (Steinahrdt, ‘15) and Ayanna Seals (Engineering ’15) came up with the idea in a class. You can learn more about the program and the selected teams here.
When I asked the teams what prompted them to apply for the Prototyping Fund, most said the money was the thing that attracted them to the program. But although they expected that the funds would be the most helpful aspect of the program, they admitted that biggest benefit was how the program changed their way of thinking. They learned to really investigate what their users need before building a product, and not simply rely on their own intuition about what a customer would want. Bradley explained that their initial thought was to create a soothing, quiet and calming game for children to play. After spending time with children and therapists, they realized children became easily bored, and they therefore changed their prototype to a game that is loud and colorful to help keep kids motivated and engaged longer.
HydrOne, an automated hydroponic Ferris wheel that allows users to grow plants at home, echoed the idea of learning about their users’ needs. Anmar El-Khalil (Stern, ’16) said he now thinks differently having gone through the Protoyping Fund program. The money was very useful in helping them buy products for their prototype, but being at the Leslie eLab was “honestly the best. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to do anything” El-Khalil said. “Adam (Manager of the Leslie eLab) helped me with different designs, and ideas. He changed the way I thought.”
The Prototying Fund Showcase was a great culmination to the semester’s work. It was so great to see all the amazing projects and to learn about the process the teams went through to get there. I look forward to seeing the next steps from all of the teams. We’ll be launching the spring Prototyping Fund in early February. If you’re working on a project, consider applying. And if not, I hope to see you in the audience for our next Prototyping Fund Showcase in May. Stay tuned!