Koch Innovation Challenge champions reach finals at national competition

November 8, 2019

min read

For the second time since the Koch Innovation Challenge began at Wichita State University, a team representing the school’s program qualified for the finals at a national competition.

As Grand Champions of this year’s Koch Innovation Challenge, Team Under Pressure (Edie Reese, Cierra O’Neill and Jedidiah Borchard) earned an expenses-paid trip to compete in the 2019 CEO Global Conference and Pitch Competition in Tampa, Florida.

Pitching against 79 other teams, Team Under Pressure reached the semifinals as one of the top 16 teams, then qualified for the finals as one of the top six.

The team’s invention, a liquid measuring tool for the visually impaired that clips onto the side of a vessel (like a cup or cooking pot), is a mechanical alternative to devices that currently exist in the marketplace, but uses magnets instead of batteries to alert users when liquid levels are near the top.

Innovation Challenge

“It’s less expensive, it’s very simple to use, and it’s very straightforward,” said Reese. “You just pull it up, the water level makes the inside rise until it clicks, and it’s an auditory cue, so they can hear when their cup is full rather than feel with their finger.” 

By consulting with a local professional on the needs of the visually impaired, the team was able to improve its prototype ahead of the final competition, incorporating a new design feature that improved functionality – after multiple rounds of trial and error.

“I think the most impactful thing I got out of the class that we took for this competition is ‘fail early, fail often,’ because we definitely went through a lot of iterations of our prototype, and it was building upon that feedback that really helped us in the end,” said O’Neill. 

While the team’s run ended in the finals, it was a major milestone for Wichita State’s program and another achievement for Team Under Pressure.

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    The team’s first prototype utilizing PVC and a wooden dowel.

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    A 3D-printed second prototype with an extendable arm.

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    The team’s final prototype with an integrated clip for easier use.

Read more about Team Under Pressure and this year’s Koch Innovation Challenge.