Wharton/Penn Engineering Y-Prize goes global

Last year, the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s GRASP lab and the Wharton School’s Mack Institute helped take cutting-edge robots out of the lab and into the marketplace through the Y-Prize Competition, a contest that invited students to come up with innovative business ideas centered on cutting-edge technology.

This year, the GRASP lab and Mack Institute have joined forces with crowdsourcing platform Marblar and intellectual property commercialization company IP Group to take the Y-Prize worldwide.

Contestants from all over the globe can now propose commercial applications for robotic technologies developed by Penn Engineering professors Vijay Kumar, Daniel Koditschek, and Mark Yim for a chance to win the ultimate prize: up to 10 percent of a licensing deal or spinoff created from their idea.

On Thursday, Oct. 3, a public kickoff event will be held at 6:30 p.m. in Wu and Chen Auditorium in Levine Hall, and streamed live via Google Hangouts. The Penn engineers will provide an inside look at their robots, giving contestants a starting point for brainstorming at Marblar.com/yprize.

“We are thrilled to foster the Y-Prize competition once again,” says Saikat Chaudhuri, executive director of the Mack Institute and an adjunct associate professor of management at Wharton. “The Y-Prize is a great example of the Mack Institute’s mission to act as a knowledge hub that unites various disciplines to yield thought leadership as well as applications in innovation management—on campus and across the world.”

Anyone can sign up to submit or contribute to an idea for a commercial application of the three types of robots: Kumar’s aerial quadrotors, Koditschek’s cockroach-inspired X-RHex, and Yim’s modular CKbots. Once an idea is posted on Marblar’s Y-Prize forum, other contestants can comment on, add to, or help refine it.

In December, the Penn judges from Engineering and Wharton will assess the ideas based on innovation, feasibility, and marketability. The best ideas will move on to next stage of the contest, where Penn students will craft business plans for commercialization. Four teams will make it to the Grand Finale, where they will pitch to a panel of tech industry judges. The ultimate winners will receive $5,000 and have their proposed application considered for adoption by IP Group.

“Seeing how the technology we develop at Penn might have an impact in the real world is immensely gratifying. For example, last year’s winners, IDENTIFIED, proposed using swarms of our aerial robots to sweep for roadside bombs,” says Kumar, who is also one of the Y-Prize’s co-founders. “I’m very much looking forward to watching this year’s ideas take shape.”