After a rigorous long weekend of researching, planning and designing, more than 300 Philadelphia University students participating in the Nexus Maximus challenge presented their final innovations to enhance life and personal health on Sept. 12.
The international collaboration yielded dozens of remarkable innovations from teams of students from over 20 different majors, every level from freshmen to graduate students, as well as students from Aalto University in Finland, KEA Copenhagen School of Design and Technology in Denmark, Thomas Jefferson University and Pace University.
Nexus Maximus is Philadelphia University’s largest Nexus Learning project, this year encompassing 49 teams, including industrial design, occupational therapy, engineering, business, architecture, landscape architecture, interior design and physician assistant studies students, who each brought their unique perspectives to help identify and solve the problems related to personal health.
“What’s amazing is all the students are really good at telling their stories,” said Michael Moscherosch, director of R&D at Johnson and Johnson, which has sponsored Nexus Maximus since its inception in 2014. “They’ve already learned how to pitch.”
The transdisciplinary nature of Nexus Maximus also makes the event so special, he said. “That’s a great form of creating innovation. You foster serendipity here.”
During the four-day-long sprint, ideas spanned all areas of personal health, including a dictation app to increase electronic health record efficiency, a vending machine that provides sanitation solutions in public institutions and a tool to measure calories and sugar for accurate health tracking and increased awareness.
“This is an absolutely valuable experience,” said third year architecture student Brandon Pun, who participated last year as well. “Although I might have design capabilities, my teammates work in programming, finance and law. It’s interesting to see how all of us can tie it together to solve one single problem.” His group worked on a device that can locate a person within a collapsed building during a natural disaster.
Making his first trip to the United States, Aalto bioinformation technology student Eero Linna found working with an international team the most rewarding part of the experience. Their Nutrition Aid service logs patients’ food choices for their doctors and informs them of conflicts between medications and what they eat.
Also part of an international group, KEA product development student Lorena Nigro said the varying styles of thinking between the two countries helped to create Simple Motion, a device to assist physical therapy patients in performing their exercises properly at home.
Nigro’s team member, industrial design student Alex Marino ’18, has participated in every Nexus Maximus but especially enjoyed this one since he could collaborate with someone from outside the United States.
“We spent a lot of time talking about our different countries, how things work there and how she views the U.S.,” he said.
TJU student Steve Orellana appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with other students from diverse backgrounds and areas of focus. “As a public health grad student, I tend to be more focused on social issues as they pertain to health,” he said. “So it’s a huge benefit to work with architect, design and product development students who have a different perspective on issues.”
They designed a mobile app called Uber Gives Back, which aimed to address the need for transportation for disabled/vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, people with epilepsy and patients without insurance.
After the teams’ tradeshow-style presentations Monday in the Gallagher Athletic, Recreation and Convocation Center, the judges selected several projects as winners.
The award for most innovative solution went to the student team who developed Impulse, a garment and connected mobile app that improves physical therapy compliance. To honor their accomplishment, the team members’ names will be inscribed on the Nexus Maximus “Sword of Innovation,” a symbol of the ultimate Nexus Learning innovation project. A system that uses a wall-mounted scanner/sanitizer and smart bracelet to improve hygiene of hospital staff and collect data received honorable mention.
A device that allows people with physical disabilities to check accessibility earned the most entrepreneurial award.
The most collaborative team developed a tool to help caregivers monitor patients’ medication and compliance with taking drugs.
And the people’s choice award went to the team that produced a medical wristband that improves a patient’s hospital visit by streamlining services.
“This is the biggest Nexus Maximus ever,” said Michael Leonard, David and Lillian Rea Dean’s Chair and academic dean, School of Design and Engineering, Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce. “The teams said they have surprised themselves with what they could do when they bounced ideas off each other. A lot of them got into areas they would not have picked in the first place.”
D.R. Widder, PhilaU’s vice president of innovation and Steve Blank Innovation Chair, said the progress made in such a short period amazed him.
“Friday, they started with nothing but the challenge, and today, they have brilliant ideas,” he said. “They have prototypes, brochures and new relationships. None of them knew each before. Now, they’re learning from and teaching each other. Hopefully, these relationships will last throughout college and their professional careers.”