Student ideas rewarded at expo

By Elizabeth zinchuk

Three SIU students came out of this weekend a little bit richer.

The fourth annual Technology and Innovation Expo was held at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Center in Carbondale Friday, where the Saluki Idea Competition concluded. The top five teams or individuals with the best ideas were announced and awarded cash prizes at the expo.

This year’s expo theme was “Sustaining our Community” and was put on by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. The competition opened for entries at the start of the semester, when students submitted invention ideas that dealt with improving community sustainability.


It was intended to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit in students as well as lead to environmentally friendly inventions, said Amy McMorrow Hunter, a technology transfer specialist who helped organize the competition.

“It was so great to see the teams present and see all of their hard work come together,” she said.

Hunter said all of the teams fared well in the competition.

“Both the teams and the organizers for this expo have been so busy, and it is relief to see the product of our efforts,” Hunter said.

The five finalists were required to recite a three-minute pitch to judges, who then added the individuals’ points and picked the winners.

“Ecolight” won first place and received a $500 cash prize as well as a $600 grant from the Sustainability Council. “Saluki Sustainable Store” won second place with a $200 cash prize and  $400 grant from the Sustainability Council. The other three ideas were each rewarded $50.

The team for “Ecolight” consisted of Eric Sia from Danville, John Leco from Anna and Gene Park from Glenview, who are all seniors studying industrial design.


According to information from the competition, “Ecolight”’s objective is to provide an environmentally friendly option to replace high traffic street lamps by harnessing power through a kinetic and solar energy combination. The idea proposes to put rumble strips near each lamp, which would collect energy when vehicles drive over them. The streetlamps draw energy from a battery and can be installed onto lampposts’ bases. The “Ecolight” team proposed the idea could create extra energy and save cities’ electricity money.

Sia said this is one of three competitions the team has won. He said he came up with the idea for “Ecolight” when he attended the Fusion competition in St. Louis.

“It was funny because I came up with the idea while driving past the Arch in St. Louis, and started thinking about using solar energy to power streetlight,” Sia said.

He said although he came up with the idea, his teammates helped him develop it.

“I could not have executed the idea without the help of my teammates who helped me research materials to use in the the idea as well as how the technology would come into play,” Sia said.

The $500 award will be split three ways between the members, he said.

Leco said the $600 award from the Sustainability Council will go toward a membership for all SIU industrial design students to The Industrial Designers Society of America. Park said the IDSA is a big group that helps industrial design students network and improve in their field.

“It is great practice for our major to go to these competitions and show off what we can do,” Park said.

Leco said the industrial design field is very competitive, and competitions give students an advantage in the workforce.

“These competitions get our names out,” Park said.

Sia said coming up with and presenting the group’s ideas helps his peers and him get exposed to the process of meeting people in his industry.

“We really worked hard to complete our project, and we would be up until dawn making sure everything was perfect,” Leco said.

The “Ecolight” team has plans for the future as well. Sia said they want to find a way to backup stoplights for when blackouts occur.

As for “Ecolight,” Park said the team hopes to advance its idea to make it possible.

“We would like to implement our idea in a practical way by eventually investing in more research for our idea,” Park said.

Jeff Myers, senior technology transfer specialist in the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, said he is excited about the competition’s outcome, and he looks forward to future competitions. He said the office has plans to put on a similar competition in the spring.