Inaugural Y-Prize Grand Finale

Y-Prize 2013 winners (r-l) Andy Wu, Kelsey Duncombe-Smith, and Richard Zhang. Photo by Lamont Abrams.
Y-Prize 2013 winners (r-l) Andy Wu, Kelsey Duncombe-Smith, and Richard Zhang. Photo by Lamont Abrams.

The Y-Prize Competition Grand Finale, which took place Monday, February 4, saw the judging of the final four teams, whose challenge it was to suggest practical applications of robotic technology developed in the GRASP Lab at Penn.

The participants had the pleasure of seeing their work recognized out of the original thirteen teams, as they presented diverse and innovative uses of the technology to a rapt audience in Levine Hall.

The judges acknowledged that the final decision was not an easy one, but crowned IDENTIFIED, a team composed of two undergraduate SEAS students, Kelsey Duncombe-Smith and Dick Zhang, and Wharton PhD candidate Andy Wu, as the final winners.

IDENTIFIED’s proposal uses robotic quadrotor technology developed at Penn to help detect and disarm Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), which are increasingly a concern for the United States as we find ourselves engaged in unconventional warfare situations.  The IDENTIFIED team’s proposal exemplifies the Mack Center’s ideology beautifully, targeting areas of possible innovation and applying new solutions based on emergent technologies.

Other applications of the technology included the COPter team’s proposal to improve police response to crime around the Penn campus—particularly relevant in light of the slew of crimes in the past school year—as well as larger scale projects to improve the system of administering hormones in the U.S. cattle industry by team RAVEN, and ARC’s idea of increasing commercial construction efficiency with robotic technology.

As a student member of the Mack Center staff, it was great to see the excited atmosphere at the finals; the competition attracted wide participation from undergraduates as well as MBA and PhD students, who mingled in the reception hall and nibbled on canapés as they waited for the results.

It was easy to see that everyone involved in the competition had put careful effort into planning presentations, taking into account details like pricing estimates and sales strategies.  Y-Prize was a soaring example of collaboration across Penn’s schools, but it was also a brilliant opportunity for students to be animated by deciding on real world applications of their knowledge.