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Student Inventors Tackle Today's Pressing Challenges

Invent@SU enables student inventors to find original solutions to problems in health care, sustainability and more.­
Students in lab working together.

Every summer, more than 30 undergraduates from the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) converge on Link Hall to build inventions and friendships. The students are part of a popular, six-week program called Invent@SU, where they divide into small groups to design, prototype and pitch original devices. For some, Invent@SU is an introduction to hands-on, project-based learning; for others, it’s the chance to chase a dream.

“The camp culminates with a Shark Tank-style pitch competition,” explains Invent@SU Director Alex Deyhim, who doubles as the Kenneth and Mary Ann Shaw Professor of Practice in Entrepreneurial Leadership. “Even if they don’t win, many teams keep working together. Some are lucky enough to bring their ideas to market.”

Collapsible Crutches Save Space for Travel and Compact Storage

Students work together in lab testing invention on electrical equipment.

Seydou Diao, Saimun Uddin and Sophia Ameneyro (from left), all members of the Class of 2025, invented Collapsa Crutch, an alternative to traditional, non-collapsible crutches. “Most crutches take up a lot of room and get caught on things,” says Diao, a mechanical engineering major. “Ours uses aluminum rods in a telescoping system, allowing the crutch to reduce to more than half its original size. This makes it easy to transport and store.” He and his two teammates, who are aerospace engineering majors, won the $600 third-place award.

Electric Cane Helps Users Stand and Sit

Four students examine invention.

The $2,000 first-place award went to inventors of Rising Cane, a regular walking cane that helps customers stand up and sit down. “Rising Cane comes with an electric linear actuator, which applies a force to a handle that’s fitted under the arm of the user,” explains Nathaniel Paradis ’25 (lower right), a junior majoring in mechanical engineering. “The handle provides lifting assistance along with a renewed sense of mobility.” Notes Deyhim: “Rising Cane is indicative of the high quality of engineering that occurs at Invent@SU. Our projects combine innovative ideas with sound engineering principles.”

Mentorship and Feedback Shape Hands-On Engineering Projects

Group of students pose for photo in business clothes.

Since its founding in 2017, Invent@SU has relied heavily on the assistance of faculty and staff volunteers, not to mention the expertise of guest evaluators like Bill G’59 and Penny Allyn ’60, who also have sponsored multiple programs. This year’s event was made possible in part by Program Sponsor Michael Lazar ’65, G’67 (center), shown standing next to J. Cole Smith, dean of ECS and professor of electrical engineering and computer science, and Gretchen Ritter, the University’s vice chancellor, provost and chief academic officer. “Inclusive programs like Invent@SU are changing the image of engineers and engineering,” says Smith (seventh from right). Ralph Folz ’90 and the Lyons Family Foundation were this year’s partner and team sponsors, respectively.

Staircase Solution May Prevent Falls, Sells Independence and Dignity

Students in business clothes speak to presentor at invention presentation.

The final day of Invent@SU included a poster session and networking luncheon in the Life Sciences Complex. Here, Smith chats with inventors of EasyUP, a lightweight, collapsible staircase for non-injurious elderly falls. “We’re selling independence and dignity,” says computer science major Ashley Hamilton ’25 (far left), noting that more than one out of four Americans over the age of 65 fall each year. “EasyUP helps customers quickly and safely transition to a nearby chair or surface without fear of embarrassment.” Her team received weekly feedback from alumni and guest evaluators about design, ideation, marketing and intellectual property.

Easy-to-Use Sewing Device Brings Clothing Repair to Everyone

Students at presentation show invention presentation board to onlooker.

Despite their different backgrounds, Invent@SU students share a well-honed sense of comradery. “At the beginning of the summer, everyone barely knows one another. Six weeks later, they’re inseparable,” observes Deyhim. Take Pablo Morales ’25 (pointing), who was the only mechanical engineering student on a team full of aerospace engineering majors. Morales’ first order of business was to connect and find common ground with his teammates. “In seeing different sides of the same problem, we came up with HomeTailor, a hand-held sewing device for on-the-go clothing repairs. It’s easy to use, even for people with little or no sewing skills.”

Cardboard Recycling Solution Can Save Water, Energy and Space in Landfills

Three students give presentation in lecture hall.

Invent@SU awarded its $1,200 second-place prize to inventors of The Boxer, an eco-friendly shredder and pulper. “Each person in the United States generates more than a pound of cardboard waste a day. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest, most common materials to recycle,” says Gabriel Fatade (right), adding that the U.S. recycling rate for cardboard is more than 82%. “Our product saves water, energy and electricity, not to mention space in landfills.” A computer engineering major, he collaborated with fellow sophomores Ethan Yankey ’26 (far left) and Adedeji Oyefeso ’26, who study civil engineering and computer engineering, respectively. As with all Invent@SU participants, they were each awarded a $2,200 stipend, and their group had a thousand dollars to spend on prototyping materials.

Program's Promotion of Women in STEM Helps Bridge Gender Gap

Students collaborate on laptops around classroom table.

The University prides itself on diversity, inclusion and equity. This is especially true in Invent@SU, where female students, donors and evaluators are in abundance. “Invent@SU allows me to establish myself as a confident, competent and compelling engineer,” writes one female participant. Adds another: “Invent@SU’s teachings aren’t just academic- and career-based. They also stress the importance of good morals and positive values—that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.”

Six-Week Program Builds Professional and Entrepreneurial Skills

Professor speaks enthusiastically to classroom.

Deyhim believes in the power of possibility, so much so that it permeates his teaching. “I’m amazed at what everybody accomplishes here in just six weeks— they’re rock-stars,” exclaims the former Cornell professor, who also works closely with the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University Libraries. “Invent@SU students not only acquire key business and professional skills, but also develop friendships that last a lifetime.” Students agree that his enthusiasm is palpable, if not contagious. In the words of one aspiring inventor: “Professor Deyhim reminds us that possibility is in the palm of our hands, that we’re all in this together.”

Experience Bolsters Resumes and Translates into Internship Opportunities

Student works closely on gears on invention.

Adedeji Oyefeso ’26 understands the importance of practical learning. Invent@SU connected him with professors, machinists, consultants and evaluators while training him on state-of-the-art equipment, like laser cutters and 3D printers. As a result, his group produced the award-winning Boxer. “I just want to learn more about computer science and make a difference in my community,” says the Brooklyn native, who belongs to the National Society of Black Engineers. Oyefeso has parlayed his Invent@SU experience into an internship at New York City-based FirstLook, which unites emerging consumer brands with early-stage investors. With any luck at all, his Boxer will join the growing number of Invent@SU products making the journey from lab to shelf.

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