Weather forecasting technique wins top prize in 2006 Collegiate Inventors Competition

Student innovators receive cash prizes for thier novel projects

Alexandria, VA (October 19, 2006) -- A new way of forecasting the weather has earned the top honor in the Collegiate Inventors Competition, an annual program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation. Matthew Haugland of the University of Oklahoma conducted research based on weather observations in microclimates to create his method. He was announced as the grand prize winner of the Competition, receiving a $25,000 prize.

This year's winners also include Craig Hashi and YiQian Zhu of the University of California, Berkeley in the graduate category for their tissue-engineered vascular graft, and Fan Yang of Johns Hopkins University in the undergraduate category for her work with anti-adherent compounds for contact lenses. Hashi and Zhu receive a $15,000 prize, and Yang receives a $10,000 prize. The 2006 Competition is sponsored by the Abbott Fund and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

This year's winners were announced during a Thursday evening awards ceremony at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. They were recognized for their cutting edge achievements, along with the other finalists in the competition, in front of an audience of National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, technology leaders, and educators. Students' advisors are also recognized with a $3,000 prize.

Marcian (Ted) Hoff, a final phase judge and an inductee in the National Inventors Hall of Fame for his invention of the microprocessor, said, "We're impressed by the high caliber student inventions that we reviewed, and we look forward to seeing these inventions put to use in the near future. I know that all the judges join me in congratulating all of the students for their innovative work."

Eleven finalists endured rigorous scrutiny during an initial evaluation process that judged their entries on the originality of the idea, process or technology, and the potential value and usefulness of their invention to society. The finalists presented their inventions on October 18th to a final panel of seven judges comprised of technology experts, some of whom are inductees in the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

"Science is about individuals looking at information and having that "light bulb" moment where they see something nobody else saw as a new solution to a problem, which is exactly what these students have done," said Bruce Beutel, Ph.D., Target and Lead Discovery, Abbott, the global research-based healthcare company. Dr. Beutel was a final round judge for the competition. "Abbott is proud to support the Collegiate Inventors Competition to encourage the next generation of scientists and innovators to come forward with the creativity that will solve problems which affect everyone."

"Inventive talent and creativity thrive in America's universities," noted Jon Dudas, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property. "The young men and women recognized today have begun what I hope will be a life-long adventure into discovering new and better ways to improve the world in which we live."

Grand prize winner Matthew Haugland, 26, has been fascinated by weather prediction and microclimates from the time he was a youngster. Especially as he grew up in the San Francisco Bay region, he was intrigued by the existing microclimates and the reasons behind them. Originally enrolled at San Jose State University, Haugland was interested in purchasing land where he could conduct his weather observations. Unable to afford land in northern California, he transferred to the University of Oklahoma and purchased five acres where he could install weather stations to monitor the environment. Through his research, based on weather observations from these stations, Haugland developed a weather forecasting technique that uses standard topographic maps and existing weather stations to more accurately predict nighttime temperatures. The implications of his work are broad, from helping to predict nighttime fog formation, a major weather-related cause of death in transportation, to helping farmers protect crops from frost and freezing. Haugland's work is especially significant in agriculture where frost damage is the largest weather-related cause of damage to crops. He has already received international attention for his work and is hoping to run a successful business focused on microclimates and microscale weather forecasting. At the University of Oklahoma, Haugland received his bachelors degree in 2001, his masters degree in 2002, and his Ph.D. in May of 2006.

Graduate winners Craig Hashi, 24, and YiQian Zhu, 31, have been recognized for their invention of a tissue-engineered vascular graft. Their research shows that they can create small bioengineered blood vessels. Knowing that grafts from a patient's body and synthetic grafts can have their limitations, the team experimented with a new kind of graft. Using a polymer, they create long, thin strands which they form into a thin mat. Then, they seed the mat with bone marrow stem cells and allow them to culture. The mat is manipulated into a tube shape which can be implanted as a vascular graft. Once implanted, the polymer dissolves and leaves a fully-functioning blood vessel. Chances of rejection are greatly reduced because the patient's own cells could be used to create the graft. Hashi, originally from Torrance, California, received his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from UCLA and is currently working on his Ph.D. in bioengineering at Berkeley. Zhu graduated from Fudan University Medical School in China and is also in Berkeley's Ph.D. bioengineering program.

Fan Yang, 18, is the undergraduate winner for her work with anti-adherent compounds for contact lenses. Seventy million people around the world wear contact lenses and contracting lens-induced infections is not uncommon. Yang's goal is to prevent infection-causing bacteria from adhering to contact lenses. It was while Yang was just in the eighth grade that she began thinking of her invention. While interning in a lab, she was looking for compounds that could adhere to bacteria. She was interested to discover that some compounds did not adhere. Later, in high school, after a visit to her optometrist, Yang was discouraged from wearing contact lenses because of the possible risk of infection. Her experiences led her to focus on her current anti-adherent project, looking not just at practical applications for contact lenses, but also investigating broader applications with medical implants in general. Yang has been a resident of Davis, California since she was ten years old. She is currently a sophomore studying biomaterial and nanomaterial engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

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The Collegiate Inventors Competition encourages students to be active in science, engineering, mathematics, technology, and creative invention. This prestigious challenge recognizes and rewards the innovations, discoveries, and research by college and university students and their advisors for projects leading to inventions that can be patented. Introduced by the Hall of Fame in 1990, the Competition has annually rewarded individuals or teams for their innovative work and scientific achievement. For more information on the Competition, visit www.invent.org/collegiate. For more information on the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation, visit www.invent.org.

The Abbott Fund is a not-for-profit, philanthropic foundation established by Abbott. For over 200 years, the basic role of the USPTO has remained the same: to promote the progress of science. Through the issuance of patents, the USPTO encourages technological advancement by providing incentives to invent, invest in, and disclose new technology worldwide. Through the registration of trademarks, the agency assists businesses in protecting their investments, promoting goods and services, and safeguarding consumers against confusion and deception in the marketplace. By disseminating both patent and trademark information, the USPTO promotes an understanding of intellectual property protection and facilitates the development and sharing of new technologies worldwide.


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