A team of eight talented undergraduate students were this year’s winners in The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship’s Student Technology Venture Competition. Dubbed “Leto Solutions,” the team, which was comprised of majors Austin Darius, Jake Montez, David Schultz and Gary Walters and undergraduate business majors Nam Do, Eric Michael Garza, Enrique Medrano and Justin Stultz, won $100,000 for developing a prototype thermoelectric cooling system for prostheses, as well as a business plan for marketing the product.
The crux of Leto Solutions’ product was to improve the overall comfort for prosthetic limbs by addressing a primary area of discomfort for those who wear them on a regular basis: the build-up of heat in the space where a residual limb comes in contact with the prosthetic itself. Because this area is high in friction, the build up of heat and sweat is not only uncomfortable, but also can lead to serious medical problems, such as infection, skin breakdown, ulcers, and blisters. In spite of the fact that long-term prosthetic users tend to develop calluses on their residual limbs, this issue always remains a concern.
Leto Solutions’ Aquilonix Prosthetic Cooling System utilizes thermoelectric technology that integrates directly into the socket of the prosthetic itself, so that the temperature in that critical area can be regulated. The result is a dramatic reduction in heat and sweat, which in turn makes for a more comfortable fit and reduces the potential for serious side effects.
Team member Gary Walters, a senior mechanical engineering major and an amputee himself, commented that: “It’s been six years since my leg was amputated and for six years I’ve been searching for a solution to the discomfort that I feel from heat every day wearing a prosthetic. This competition allowed for the perfect time and opportunity to create a solution.”
The competition itself is a unique one in that it not only takes into consideration the development of a product, but also the business and marketing plan behind it. The judges panel was comprised of local academic, business and entrepreneurial experts in order to rate each team’s complete entry into the competition
Randy Goldsmith, investor-in-residence at Texas Technology Development Center and a CITE competition judge, commented: “This is one of the best programs in the U.S. and over the years I have seen the quality and caliber of the companies and presentations grow tremendously each year. We have had the opportunity to fund the first place winner from four competitions ago and we are seriously considering funding the other winners as well.”
10 student teams competed for the $100,000 cash prize, including:
· Artemis Care, which developed an indoor tracking system called Apollo’s Eye that safeguards special needs individuals while respecting their freedom and privacy.
· Circa-Invention, which created a machine that launches Frisbees and tennis balls with a touch of a button, designed to help children and others develop hand-eye coordination.
· Cyclosa, which invented a gear shifter that works on both chain and belt-driven bicycles that is lighter, quieter, stronger, more efficient and requires less maintenance than traditional shifters.
· ELD Energy Loss Detection Software, which detects energy leaks in a building and determines the fiscal losses caused by these leaks. It will also cost out the building improvements necessary to get rid of these problems.
· Jack N’ Slide, which is a wheelchair accessory that aids patients in wheelchair-to-bed transfers. Their product replaces the canvas seat of a wheelchair with a mechanical lift seat that easily bolts to the frame of a standard wheelchair.
· PLaCR I.T., which provides a fast, accurate and easily repeated method of centering a gamma radiation source for small-batch Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) and inspection of pipe welds in the 36” – 60” diameter range.
· Reddo Communication System, which created a portable device for translating sign language into voice.
· Smart Car Seat System, which developed the NannyPad, a vibrating pad built into a car seat to comfort a child and detect harmful cabin temperature.
· Smart Steer, which developed a steering wheel cover that manages the infotainment system of the vehicle without requiring the driver to look away from traffic – hence decreasing distractions and unexpected accidents.
The synergy of engineering and business majors on Leto Solutions, along with a product and business plan that truly met an important need in the marketplace, led their team — as well as the other competing teams — to success. “What made this group unique is that they were so competitive with one another,” said Anita Leffel, UTSA entrepreneurship professor and associate director of CITE. “They really learned from each other and fed off each others’ energy and motivation to make their companies better and better leading up to this competition. I’m proud of all of them.”