NSF I-Corps Site Program Furthers Award-Winning Project
In the Aggies Against COVID-19 Virtual Competition that began in April, teams of students competed to develop innovations that would help in the fight against COVID-19. The top 10 teams qualified to take part in the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Site program, which provides resources and funding to further the commercialization of student products.
A team of nine Texas A&M University students created the Coro-No UV-Clave, placing in the top 10 out of 71 teams. Team members included Marianela Cintrón and John Karako from the J. Mike Walker ‘66 Department of Mechanical Engineering.
“I thought this was a great way to get involved and make a difference with everything that was happening,” Cintrón said. “I pulled a group of friends together who were interested, and we created a solution to the mask shortage.”
The Coro-No UV-Clave is a light chamber that resembles an oven. Placing an object in the chamber, such as a mask, quickly and efficiently sanitizes that object by using UV-C lighting.
After the team completed its project and placed in the competition, the students realized that their product was no longer an original. The NSF I-Corps Site program provided an opportunity for the team’s creation to evolve through engineering entrepreneurship.
“By the time we finished the design and presented it during the competition, there were tons of products like this already on the market,” Karako said. “(NSF I-Corps Site) reached out after we placed in the top 10 and offered to fund changes to the project, and four of us decided to continue working on it.”
The team of four includes Karako, Cintrón, Tyler Hope and Jerry Reiger. Hope is working toward a double major in biochemistry and genetics, and Reiger is a geographic information science and technology major. Their revised product is called Sterilight.
According to Karako, the primary change from their original invention is that it uses far UV-C as the light source. This change eliminates the potentially harmful radiation that is associated with UV-C lights. Cintrón said far UV-C also can sanitize a broader range of materials.
Sterilight construction is ongoing, and the team is continues to conduct research, develop the product and look for other areas the concept can be used in with the help of the NSF I-Corps Site program. Their most recent prototype aims to sanitize objects and areas that are constantly being touched.
“We are hoping that once we complete our design, it can be implemented in K-12 schools and colleges so that the fear of transmission through using community objects, such as crayons or lab supplies, is diminished,” Cintrón said.
Karako said stores are another location that could benefit from the use of the Sterilight.
“Stores may sanitize their credit card readers every 30 or 60 minutes,” Karako said. “Many people go through in 60 minutes and obviously you can’t clean it after every person. If we have a constantly cleaning light, then it’s a hotspot that’s being constantly cleaned.”
Karako and Cintrón are working with the team to create a final prototype of Sterilight and contacting local institutions to determine how to improve their product. They will receive a certificate of completion from the program, potentially qualifying the team for an additional $2,500. Through the help and guidance of the NSF I-Corps Site program, they hope to demonstrate their invention’s entrepreneurial potential and aid in the battle against COVID-19.