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Big ideas on display as Health Innovation Exhibition returns in person

Projects range from COVID-19 kits for homeless to devices that help prevent accidents due to drowsy driving


A student presents her team idea to Edson College Dean Judy Karshmer. The student is wearing a bright pink vest over a black turtleneck and is standing in front of a poster with the words "stay close" on it.
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December 06, 2021

Every fall since 2014, first-year students in Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation have gathered at the Health Innovation Exhibition to present their solutions to real-world health challenges to faculty, staff and the community.

Every fall, that was, until last year, when the coronavirus caused the event to be moved online and for students to present their posters digitally.

“Like so many others in 2020, we had to pivot. But our ASU 101 students work really hard on these projects all semester, so it was important that we found a meaningful way to showcase their efforts and great ideas,” said Caitlyn Zang, director of student engagement at Edson College.

At the beginning of this year, it wasn’t clear whether the event would be back in person, but thanks to a lot of planning, a large outdoor space and ASU’s Community of Care precautions, the event returned. And not only was it back, but it was also the largest Health Innovation Exhibition the college has ever hosted.

“This year about 750 students participated on Friday (Dec. 3). We moved it to 850PBC, or the Wexford Building, home to ASU’s Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab (HEALab), which is a sponsor of the event,” Zang said.

The students took up the entire parking lot of one of the newest buildings on the Downtown Phoenix campus to share the culmination of their semester-long projects. Topics were predetermined by the faculty in the college and then divided up between ASU 101 sections. 

Bernardine Bueno and her group, which included classmates Yasmin Contreras and Sitey Muya, focused on prenatal care. Their solution centered on increasing access to resources.

“We decided to focus our idea in rural Arizona and create a mobile clinic that would travel to rural areas and provide prenatal resources for parents-to-be, including classes and social support groups,” Bueno said.

Edson College students stand next to their poster during the Health Innovation Exhibition. The poster is a pale pink and has the words Mobile Prenatal Clinic on it

Bernardine Bueno, Yasmin Contreras and Sitey Muya stand next to their poster at the Health Innovation Exhibition.

“It was a really good experience because it was a broad topic to begin with, so we had to narrow it down and come up with a solution,” said Muya, adding, “I feel great about how it came out, and we’re happy with it.”

On the tech side, Danielle Enero and teammates Valeria Montes and Briana Lopez Martinez came up with a device to detect drowsy driving and then alert the driver and, if necessary, the police.

“People always think of car accidents resulting from drunk driving or something, but one of the major causes is sleep deprivation, and it's something people don’t realize is a big problem,” Enero said.

Their solution, the “sleepbelt,” would help curb that.

“The device attaches to the seat belt and detects if you’re falling asleep. It also tracks your pulse and can tell when it slows. There are pre-recorded conversations to talk with you if you’re falling asleep, and it also has alarms that can alert the police if you don’t wake up,” Lopez Martinez said.

In total, the first-year students put forward more than 200 ideas ranging from topics like the ones mentioned above to mindfulness, COVID-19 care kits for those who are homeless and more. 

“One of the great things about introducing innovation to students at this stage is that they’re not constrained by anything. They can really let their imaginations run in every direction, and that leads to some really good ideas that are totally outside the box. Which is exactly the point of this project,” said Rick Hall, assistant dean of health innovation and entrepreneurship. 

A new addition to the event is a cash prize element, with the winning teams each splitting the money. All students who participate have the opportunity to pursue their idea using the vast resources available in the HEALab in collaboration with the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute

“I’m so impressed by the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of these ideas. I mean, there really are several here that have serious potential. And the fact that they are able to do this so early on in their schooling, I can just imagine all the great things ahead of them in health care,” said Edson College Dean Judith Karshmer. 

The 2021 winners were:

First place: $1,000 cash prize 

Sleepbelt: Just Wear It” — a device to curb drowsy driving by Valeria Montes, Danielle Enero and Briana Lopez Martinez.

Second place: $500 cash prize

We Hear You” — a pager prototype to address bed alarm fatigue by Sarah Lindner, Cynthia Galvan and Marissa Hammel.

Third place: $250 cash prize 

Kits for Care” — COVID-19 care kits for the homeless by Marine Koshkaryan, Connie Escobar and Hannah Keller.

Montes, who was part of the first-place team, said she was not expecting to win the top prize. 

“I know we did the research and we did a good job, but there’s a bunch of other great ideas out there as well, so I’m surprised,” she said.

Top photo: A first-year student discusses her team's poster with Edson College Dean Judith Karshmer during the Health Innovation Exhibition on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Mitchell Tay

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