Engineering Meets Entrepreneurship at Invent@SU 2023

Six weeks. Eight teams. Three winners.  

After weeks of preparation, the Invent@SU project presentations finally took place. Faculty, staff, alumni, and sponsors gathered at the Life Sciences Complex, packing into Breed Lecture Hall to witness eight teams present their creations and showcase their entrepreneurial flair.  

Invent@SU Students describing their invention to a panel of judges

For six weeks, 20 Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) students spent their summer days in Link Hall designing and prototyping inventions to pitch to sponsors and compete for cash prizes. Room 369 served as a collaborative space and innovative hub where students brainstormed and perfected their pitches with help from ECS faculty. Battling for first, second, and third place, the competition this year was close. 

Students, faculty and judges participating in the Invent@SU program

Among the roster of Invent@SU competitors were EasyUP, a lightweight collapsible staircase to help senior citizens get back on their feet after a fall, MAJK Pain Relief, a device that provides relief for people with lower back pain, HomeTailor, a handy tool for quick and easy clothing repairs, Collapsa Crutch, an alternative to non-collapsible crutches, The Boxer, a device designed to turn excess cardboard boxes into pulp, GluTrace, a cup that measures sugar content for people with diabetes, SproutSwim, a life vest for infants, and Rising Cane, a way to assist people as they stand up from a seated position.  

With just five minutes to impress the judges, students strived to leave a lasting impression, which many highlighted was just as crucial as the invention itself.  

“One of the biggest things I learned from this program was that engineers often only think about the engineering aspect of things. But we also must learn how the business side of things works too,” Saimun Uddin of Collapsa Crutch said. “We talked to patent lawyers and project managers… We also learned how to brand ourselves, and how to make sure you stick out when talking to sponsors.”  

Three students working on a new version of a crutch

Uddin’s words about standing out in the competition proved to be true. With her teammates, Sophia Ameneyro and Seydou Diao, the trio would take home third place, winning a cash prize of $600. Their presentation demonstrated their ingenious invention’s functionality by keeping the collapsible crutch hidden in a backpack, revealing it at the end of their pitch to audience applause.  

“The reason I chose engineering and ECS was to get hands-on involvement,” Uddin continued. “Sometimes in undergrad, you don’t always get much practical experience. But in this program, you’re able to apply what you learn. When we were designing and prototyping for Invent@SU, we realized how much we applied the things we learned in class. It was very enriching.”  

In second place winning a $1,200 cash prize was The Boxer, the cardboard pulping device. Team members Gabriel Fatade, Adedeji Oyefeso, and Ethan Yankey exuded natural charm and camaraderie, capturing the audience’s interest with their engaging presentation.  

Three students working on a device designed to turn cardboard into pulp

“We started with a small idea and now we see the fruit of our labor,” Fatade said. “It’s amazing that people are willing to look at our invention and give it a chance. It’s honestly heart-touching. If you told me six weeks ago, we were going to create a machine for cardboard, I wouldn’t believe it.”  

Though Fatade was initially anxious about being a computer engineering student while his team’s invention required mechanical engineering knowledge, he learned a lot by relying on his teammates and learned some things about mechanical engineering too.  

A student making final adjustments to their invention

“We had our ups and downs,” Fatade added. “There were a lot of mechanical things…But it gave me insight into what it’s like being on a team and taught me how to become a better team member as a whole.” 

Taking home a cash prize of $2,000 and winning the championship title of Invent@SU 2023 was Rising Cane. With a captivating pitch, their suits and matching pink ties displayed their teamwork and collaboration, which team member Hunter McElhinney believed contributed to their success. 

“We’re all one team. If everyone’s not on the same wavelength, things will go downhill quickly,” McElhinney said. “I think teamwork and consistency have gotten us through this competition. Everybody can be motivated at one point but who can stay consistent…That’s what it came down to. Getting hands-on experience, having a plan, and attacking it from all angles – when the puzzle pieces fall together, it’s a satisfying thing.”

Four students working on a cane that would help people rise from a seated position

For McElhinney and his teammates Nathaniel Paradis, Jack Sipperly, and Zach Starr, this isn’t the end. The victors plan on entering Rising Cane in other competitions at Syracuse University. Other Invent@SU teams also plan to work with Blackstone Launchpad in Bird Library to explore business plans and patents.  

“This year, our teams all came up with truly creative inventions,” mechanical and engineering professor Alexander Deyhim said. “The technical depth and the use of engineering calculations that went into the development of each project was highly impressive.” 

“I genuinely enjoyed getting up every day and coming to this program,” McElhinney added. “Even in the summertime, the last thing you want to do is work. But this really didn’t feel like work at all.”  

Invent@SU is made possible by our sponsors. We’d like to thank Syracuse University Trustee Bill Allyn G’59 and Janet “Penny” Jones Allyn ’60 and Michael Lazar G’65 for their program sponsorship. We’d also like to thank the 2023 partner sponsor, the Lyons Family Foundation, and the 2023 team sponsor, Ralph Folz ’90. Their generosity makes it possible for us to provide a truly transformational experience for student inventors at SU.

For more information on the program, visit