Diagnosing Alzheimer's disease and taking eyecare to third-world countries: BYU student innovators deliver again

Seven finalists recently competed for Student Innovator of the Year

PROVO, Utah – Mar 14, 2022 – Every year innovative students at BYU give their best shot at developing new technologies that can make the world a better place. With $50,000 in prize money on the line, the 2022 Student Innovator of the Year Competition once again delivered potentially life-changing results.

The finals of the months-long competition wrapped up last week, producing, among other innovations, technology that can diagnose potential Alzheimer’s symptoms, a system to provide affordable eyecare for people in third-world countries, and a crutch that can be used hands free.

Read on to learn about this year’s winners, crowd-favorites and the most unique student-led projects from the annual event sponsored by the Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering, the Weidman Center for Global Leadership and the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology.

WINNER: Innate Diagnostics

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three senior citizens dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia — more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. The student team from Innate Diagnostics created a diagnostic tool that can help predict someone’s likelihood for getting the disease long before they have symptoms.

Their device uses epigenetics and machine learning algorithms to predict Alzheimer’s risk with a simple blood sample. So far their testing has shown accuracy levels above 90%. They believe their technology could replace the current standard of care for AD diagnosis (a set of memory tests) and could not only save millions of lives, but also save billions of dollars in treatment costs.

RUNNER-UP (And Crowd Favorite): Hexoptic Eyecare

This student team created an affordable, mobile eyecare diagnostic tool that can be used in third-world countries. That’s great news for the 1 billion people worldwide who need glasses but don’t have access to them. Their hexoptic device provides eye exams in under four minutes and is already in use in five small clinics around the world: three in Haiti, one in Sierra Leone and one in Madagascar.

Early results from clinical use are promising: 77% of patients have had their vision diagnosed and corrected with glasses to at least 20/20 vision, and 91% of patients have had their vision corrected to 20/30 vision. The team is also working with manufacturers to produce low-cost glasses for those patients; to date they’ve been able to produce glasses for as little as $3 to $8.

THIRD PLACE: Gemini

BYU student Jacob Cardwell and his teammate Kolton Anselmo want to make 3D printing more accessible for wider populations. The idea behind their Gemini device is to eliminate the learning curve and the financial gap for the many potential 3D printer users out there.

Gemini provides an automated, push-button-easy process between scanning an object and then 3D printing. Their device plugs directly into most commonly used 3D printers, enables automatic scan and printing and is substantially more affordable than other competing scanners currently on the market — none of which are automatic.

OTHER FINALISTS:

Sava: An app to help protect students from sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses. The in-pocket solution would provide dating safety and education resources for students while being paid for by universities. The team behind Sava wants to partner with experts to offer education that is easily accessed by students and more frequently visited and retained due to students’ usage of the dating safety tools on the app.

EaziStep: A prosthetic-based hands-free alternative crutch for individuals who have suffered a serious lower leg injury. The device, created by engineering student Joshua Vanderpool and colleague Ildar Fazulyanov, provides a crutch that is non-weight bearing and allows for natural gait and muscle engagement. The team says current options — crutches and scooters — are awkward, bulky and they often limit accessibility.

Travel Trolley: Created by couple Kyle Webster and Emily Huber-Webster, along with brother Seth Huber, the travel trolley is a portable, collapsible wheel and strap system that fits into a backpack and allows families to haul significantly more luggage easily through the airport. The team surveyed 1,500 people from around the world and carried out 350 consumer conversations as part of their research for the simple device.

Dosara: Winners of the 2020 BYU Big Idea Pitch and Crowd Favorite from the 2021 SIOY, Dosara is a simple prescription-pill-bottle locking device aimed at preventing drug addiction. The device regulates prescription bottles, allowing only the prescribed number of pills to be dispensed at the appropriate times. The device is aimed at protecting the very patients prescribed the medication from abusing the drugs.

Students present at the finals of the 2022 Student Innovator of the Year Competition.
Students present at the finals of the 2022 Student Innovator of the Year Competition. Photo by BYU Photo.
The team from Hexoptic Eyecare presents their medical innovation.
The team from Hexoptic Eyecare presents their medical innovation. Photo by BYU Photo.
Student Josh Vanderpool shows off the EaziStep.
Student Josh Vanderpool shows off the EaziStep. Photo by BYU Photo.

Media Contact: Todd Hollingshead, 801-422-8373
Writer: Todd Hollingshead