Olympus showcases innovations

Brian Trimboli Apr 21, 2013

Project Olympus’s show-and-tell event gave alumni and other Carnegie Mellon affiliates a chance to show off their latest innovations.

The event, which took place last Thursday in the University Center’s McConomy Auditorium, attracted a large audience of students and alumni alike.

The event opened with a talk from Lenore Blum, founding director of Project Olympus and professor of computer science.

Project Olympus provides help to Carnegie Mellon students and faculty who are trying to commercialize new ideas. According to its website, Project Olympus is “bridging the gap between cutting-edge university research/innovation and economy-promoting commercialization for the benefit of our communities.”

Blum talked about the role of students in many now-prominent startups and the aggressive recruitment of students by already-existing startup companies.

“Our students are in great demand, and are getting fantastic jobs at the coolest startups on the planet. In fact, we were fueling — and we still are fueling — the high-tech economy across the planet,” Blum said.

The first demonstration of the show-and-tell came from Jay Whitacre, a professor of materials science and engineering and engineering and public policy, who gave a presentation about new ideas for energy storage using innovative materials.

“The more we look to integrate renewable [energy sources] with the grid, the more we have to handle the intermittencies of those renewables,” Whitacre said. “You can imagine putting a very large battery with this kind of source. If you can do that, you can transform something that’s unreliable to something with a base load of a power.”

The next presentation, from professor of computer science Zico Kolter, also focused on energy research.

As stated in the event’s program, Kolter described “computational approaches of sustainable energy demands: how machine learning can help.”

Kolter’s talk centered on ideas that would improve the power meters that homes already have by making them “smart meters,” which intelligently monitor energy usage to promote conservation.

The next portion of the event was “a focus on startups and app developers” featuring several Carnegie Mellon students and alumni, including Matt Stewart (ETC ’12), junior business management major Steve Musche, junior mechanical engineering major Arden Rosenblatt, and Ph.D. candidate in machine learning Prashant Reddy.

Stewart described his startup, Digital Dream Labs, which creates apps for the iPad to foster children’s learning.

Musche talked about Know Your Style, a startup designed to make shopping easier for men by simplifying clothing options, while Rosenblatt talked about The PieceMaker — a 3-D flash image slider — and the potential of 3-D printing technology.

Reddy talked about Lumator, a startup designed to help consumers make smarter energy choices using machine learning.

The show-and-tell then featured students from TartanHacks, introduced by the founder and the director of ScottyLabs, senior computer science major Amy Quispe and junior human-computer interaction major Julia Teitelbaum, respectively.

Teitelbaum described TartanHacks as a hacking competition that differs from other, similar offerings.

“We wanted TartanHacks to be a different kind of hackathon, in a couple of different ways. We wanted it to address a more diverse crowd of students, and to place more value on innovative ideas and participants’ learning, and not just a technical challenge,” Teitelbaum said.

The “TartanHacks Stars,” as the event’s program calls them, were sophomore information systems major Kevin Schaefer, sophomore computer science major Hayden Demerson, sophomore electrical and computer engineering major Shane Smith, junior computer science majors Avesh Singh and Daniel Deutsch, and senior human-computer interaction majors Kristina Lustig and Michael Helmbrecht. The last portion of the event was a short lecture from Shanna Tellerman (CFA ’03, ETC ’05), titled “The Entrepreneurial Mindset.”

The Project Olympus show-and-tell concluded with a reception in the University Center’s Connan Room, where attendees could meet the entrepreneurs who had presented while sampling the new technologies hands-on.