Science & Tech

Invent For The Planet Winners Launch Company

Their product, originally crafted during the competition at Texas A&M in 2019, helps people with visual impairments navigate while walking.
By Michelle Revels, Texas A&M University College of Engineering February 1, 2021

Close up image of hand holding a blue device up to a black hat in their hand
Team Tupa placed first at Texas A&M’s Invent for the Planet 2019. Their innovative technology for the visually impaired, combined with their passion for helping others, inspired them to create their own company, Tupan.

Texas A&M Engineering Communications

 

The winners of the Texas A&M University Invent for the Planet (IFTP) competion in 2019 recently launched a new company featuring their cutting-edge technology designed during the contest.

Team Tupa from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil placed first at the event for their prototype that was envisioned to help the visually impaired navigate while walking, replacing a cane. Now, with their new company Tupan, the team

“When we came back from Texas, we received a lot of positive feedback, the majority being from the visually impaired,” said team member Felipe Macedo. “Some of them just wanted to buy the version that was a prototype. We thought we created such a cool, functional and cheap technology. We decided to create Tupan to combine technology, accessibility and innovation in just one purpose to improve the quality of life of those people.”

Tupan is selling a complete working version of the technology drafted at IFTP. The product, called Eva, and was created as a modern and cost-friendly alternative to the walking stick that many visually impaired people use daily.

The technology consists of a hat and a small pointer, which are equipped with sensors. Powered by rechargeable batteries, both devices can recognize obstacles and hazards within a range of two meters. The hat uses mechanical sensors to detect obstacles and send vibrations to the user, while the pointer uses electromagnetic waves.

Invent for the Planet is a worldwide intensive design competition hosted by Texas A&M that focuses on finding helpful solutions to pressing global problems. Students form teams at their local universities and compete in a 48-hour competition where they research and propose a solution, develop a prototype, create a business plan and pitch their product to a panel of renowned judges.  Winners at each university then submit a videotape of their presentation and send it to Texas A&M, where another set of judges selects the top five. These teams are then asked to travel to Texas A&M to compete head-to-head for the ultimate prizes.

“The intent of IFTP is to get the students to have an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset,” said Don Bailey, a coordinator for the competition. “I think that (IFTP) prepares the engineers for success better than any other program for their future careers.”

Team Tupa included Macedo, Breno Ferreira, Caio De Lima, Giovanni Enokibara, Luã Guedes and Victor Hugo Benicio. Members were undergraduate and graduate students from both the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and Centro Federal de Educação Tecnológica Celso Suckow da Fonseca.

“We believe that more than developing this equipment, we are creating something that really changes people’s lives,” Ferreira said. “We are impacting an entire social branch, and we are working on something that we really love.”

On their flight home to Brazil, the students met one of their partners, III Comunicação, who believed in the product’s potential. It was from there they began determining the future of their product. They traveled extensively in Brazil, showing the product at events and demonstrations and realized their desire to form a company.

“I think the biggest challenge that we’ve had is to transform our prototype that we made at Texas A&M into a final product and create our own technology,” Macedo said. “We created equipment that can work with visual impairments, and we wanted something else. We want to work not only with visual impairment and improve their quality of life in general, we also want to work with hearing impairments, work with autism and more disabilities.”

The team has been given several opportunities over the past two years stemming from their IFTP win.

“This certainly opened many doors for us, was a really good career opportunity and brought us more than we expected,” Ferreira said. “We encourage people that are thinking about participating in next year’s competition, IFTP 2022, to participate. It maybe can bring you more than you expected.”

The next Invent for the Planet will take place in 2022.

This article by Michelle Revels originally appeared on the College of Engineering website.

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