Worcester Polytechnic Institute Students Win First Annual Strage Innovation Awards

Awards Designed to Turn Ideas into New Projects and Ventures

Contact: WPI Media Relations, +1-508-831-5706

WORCESTER, Mass. -- May 31, 2005 -- Recognizing the increasing importance of innovation, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the university's Collaborative for Entrepreneurship & Innovation established an annual innovation competition this academic year for WPI students. Named for Henry M. Strage '54, former senior director of McKinsey & Company, the competition encourages students to gain knowledge of and practical experience in the translation of creative ideas into viable projects or ventures.

For this inaugural year, three winning entrants were recognized. Electrical and computer engineering student William D. Tolli took the $1,500 first place prize for his One-Wire wiring harness for custom motorcycles. Tolli found that custom motorcycles and Harley-Davidsons are modern works of art, but can be functionally inferior to production models with respect to the electrical systems. His One-Wire harness system helps solve this problem by reducing the electrical system to a single wire.

Servprise International, a company recently founded by WPI alumni Kevin J. Menard '04 and Corey Wallenstein '05, won second prize ($750). The company owns the patent for a remote reboot device that allows failed computer systems to be rebooted without pulling the plug. Third place ($250) went to mechanical engineering major Alexandra A. Levshin '05 and alumna Catherine Darensbourg '02 for an environmentally friendly, disposable cleansing mitt for use by physically challenged individuals who would otherwise require assistance with personal hygiene.

The winners were determined by a panel of three distinguished judges: entrepreneur and business operations consultant Stephen E. Rubin '74, Walter J. Salmon, the Stanley Roth, Sr., professor of retailing, emeritus, at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration, and Paul A. Street, founder and chairman of Impala Partners. Judging criteria included (in order of importance) demonstrated creativity and originality of idea; technical merit, viability, and commercialization strategy; quality of presentation and clarity of idea; implementation feasibility; and supporting evidence and market demand.

These innovation awards were the brainchild of Strage, who remembered a similar competition called the Peel Prize that he won as a WPI student in 1953. The Peel Prize was awarded to a member of the junior class who could best develop an engineering economic problem or idea, and defend it before a critical audience.

In considering how to celebrate his 50th class reunion, Strage and his wife, Alberta, decided that they wanted to find some way of encouraging students to seek opportunities to translate their dreams and scholastic work into realistic contributions. He noted, "I believe that to make progress in the future, we need to develop a culture of innovation that permeates every aspect of our social, economic, and political institutions. When I found that the Peel Prize was discontinued, we began to think about ways to recreate this competition because it represented such an important milestone in my career."

About the WPI Collaborative for Entrepreneurship & Innovation

The Collaborative for Entrepreneurship & Innovation is Worcester Polytechnic Institute's university-wide center for entrepreneurship activity. It was founded in 1999 to capitalize upon the extraordinary synergy between WPI's many different entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives and extend the benefits to a larger community.

The Collaborative serves WPI students, faculty, and staff in all majors and the external business community through programs that nurture a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation on WPI's campus and accelerate knowledge and action in the transfer of technology. It links people to the education and network required to understand and act upon technology ideas generated in classrooms, dormitories, laboratories, and wherever else innovation occurs.

The CEI connects with entrepreneurs, incubators, small business organizations, investors, service providers, private foundations funding entrepreneurship initiatives, and government organizations charged with economic development activity. For more information about the collaborative, visit its Web site at www.wpi.edu/+cei.