iPhone sleep improvement application wins at UW-Madison innovation competition

Published February 12
Related articles at UW Communications and Wisconsin State Journal

Student inventors Justin Beck (left) and Daniel Gartenberg pose with their prize-winning invention. Photo by David Nevala.
Student inventors Justin Beck (left) and Daniel Gartenberg pose with their prize-winning invention. Photo by David Nevala.

A software application for the iPhone and the iPod touch that will help people sleep and wake up more effectively won the $10,000 top prize in the Schoofs Prize for Creativity, an annual University of Wisconsin-Madison invention competition that rewards innovative and marketable ideas.

Developed by electrical and computer engineering senior Justin Beck and psychology and neurobiology senior Daniel Gartenberg, the application serves as a sophisticated alarm clock that wakes users up during the light sleep phase of their cycle, meaning they will be less groggy and more alert during the day. In the morning, users play an easy game that tests alertness, and the software then automatically reconfigures as it learns the user’s unique sleep cycle. Called Proactive Sleep, the software could be on sale in the Apple application store in the next few months.

“We want to build a community around the idea of improving people’s sleep,” says Gartenberg, adding the technology will educate people about optimal sleep habits and could eventually be used to diagnose sleep disorders.

Additionally, a new type of soft-drink vending machine won first place and $2,500 in the Tong Prototype Prize, which rewards the best prototype in the competition. Developed by mechanical engineering senior Michael Deau, the Eco Stream system will integrate digital technology with environmental values, allowing people to reuse plastic or steel bottles and pay for their drinks via Web-based accounts.

The winners were selected from eight inventions developed by 10 students participating in the 15th annual Innovation Day, an event hosted on the UW-Madison College of Engineering campus. Innovation Day features two competitions that award cash prizes to the most creative ideas and the best prototypes. Additionally, participants can win money for submitting the best design notebook or delivering the best presentation.

Other Schoofs Prize for Creativity winners include:

Second place and $7,000— Portable Refugee Shelter, a weather-resistant, easily assembled modular emergency shelter that is large enough to house an entire family developed by electrical and computer engineering junior Jason Lohr.

Third place and $4,000—Eco Stream by Michael Deau.

Fourth place and $1,000— One-Handed Canoe System, a set of devices that enables people with disabilities or physical limitations to paddle a canoe with one arm and carry the canoe more comfortably and easily during a portage invented by chemical and biological engineering senior Andrew Burton.

Other Tong Prototype Prize winners include:

Second place and $1,250— Portable Refugee Shelter by Jason Lohr.

Third place and $700—Split Key, a two-piece removable laptop keyboard that enables users to position right- and left-hand sections individually for maximum typing comfort invented by engineering mechanics and astronautics junior Benjamin Conrad.

Additional prizes include:

Sorenson Best Design Notebook Award and $1,000—Split Key by Benjamin Conrad.

Younkle Best Presentation Award and $1,000—Eco Stream by Michael Deau.

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