2016 Envision Entrepreneurship Finalists

Envision Entrepreneurship, a pitch competition centered on innovative applications of technology for large-scale impact, will take place at Princeton University on December 2nd, 2016.

We’re proud and excited to announce our five finalists for Envision Entrepreneurship, who were selected through interviews and a written application. These five teams will work with mentors and advisers to prepare for the final competition on December 2nd at the Envision Conference, hosted at Princeton University.

A livestream of the competition will be available at 8:30pm EST on December 2nd at http://envision-conference.com/ee.

Astromech Scavenger

Greg Howard, Julia Peng, and Kaan Pinar (University of Pennsylvania)

The Astromech Scavenger is a real-world WALL-E that will clear space debris, keeping orbital ventures safe in years to come. Existing government projects and commercial ventures track ever-increasing space debris orbiting Earth. When satellites’ trajectories overlap with these pieces of junk, troublesome collisions take place. We propose to clear Category II space debris from low Earth orbit (LEO), by using CubeSat-mounted electromagnetic tethers, which when activated attract metallic junk. As the orbital body gains mass, it will slow in orbit, leading the satellite and tethered junk to fall into the atmosphere, thereby removing debris, which burns up in descent. We would target the densest debris zones, as well as specific areas of commercial or scientific interest, at times when functional structures are not within reach.

Farming with Ant Colonies

Elisa Vera (Princeton University)

The ideal future is one where automation and sustainability go hand in hand. The current farming process relies on heavy pesticide and herbicide use as well as significant petroleum usage. We can remedy this with the usage of one of nature’s most efficient machines: the ant. Currently the only plant to take advantage of these large colonies of efficient workers are acacia trees. The acacia tree binds an ant colony to it through inhibiting the ant’s gut proteins. The acacia tree also produces both a sugary nectar and the enzymes required to digest the nectar. The ants become dependent on the acacia tree, remove competing plants and defend the tree from herbivores. The final goal is to use genetic modification technologies to produce both a crop that produces these enzymes and nectar as well as colonies of ants with heightened farming tendencies.


Eric Hinterman (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is the science of “living off the land”. The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) is an instrument that seeks to turn the atmospheric carbon dioxide on Mars into oxygen. MOXIE is a payload being developed for NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover, and will produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere through solid oxide electrolysis. A scaled version of MOXIE will provide the propellant and life support necessary to allow the first astronauts on Mars to breathe and return home safely. MOXIE is a high-impact technology that has the potential to pave the way to human colonization of Mars!

Nanorods as Cognitive Implants

Hannah Atmer (Cornell University)

Nanotechnology, specifically gold nanorods, can be used to construct cognitive implants. The nanorods are injected via the bloodstream, and once they reach the brain they are programmed to perform cognitive functions via infrared radiation. The programming and day-to-day functioning of the implant is guided by an AI that uses machine learning to tune the programming of the implant to that specific user. This technology can be used for a wide range of applications including restoring brain function after brain injury, augmented reality, and education.

Smart Microbial Fuel Cells

Julian Vallyeason (Brown University)

Microbial fuel cells have the potential to capitalize on the electrochemical potential of organic products, ranging from factory wastewater to human waste. I hope to develop a ‘smart microbial fuel cell,’ fusing smart technology with conventional fuel cells. These cells can selectively alter and re-optimize their reaction rate and reaction chambers to changing conditions, thus allowing for maximal electrical output; in addition, these microbial fuel cells will have a dual functionality, acting as both a source of current, and as a sieve for the filtration and purification of water. Its integrative technology makes it a sustainable and versatile source of energy.

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