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National competition richly rewards student innovators

Lemelson-MIT Program

These stories and other coverage of Boston’s technology and biotech scene can be found at the new betaboston.com site.

The Lemelson-MIT Program has announced the winners of its National Collegiate Student Prize Competition. A total of $50,000 is awarded to the most inventive undergraduate and graduate students in the country. Undergraduate teams get $10,000 awards while graduate student winners receive $15,000.

In the “Cure it!” category for students working on technology to improve health care, the graduate winner was David Sengeh of MIT (in photo), who designed a process to customize prosthetic devices using quantitative and human data, MRIs, and 3-D printing.


Undergraduate winner in the category was a team from Clemson University led by Tyler Ovington that developed a product called GlucoSense, a low-cost glucometer and test strips that can be printed by standard inkjet printers. Other members of the team include Alex Devon and Kayla Gainey.

In the “Use it!” category for inventions that can improve consumer devices and tools, the graduate winner was Ben Peters of MIT for his “digital mold,” a high-resolution, reconfigurable molding surface that can be used for commercial manufacturing, prototyping, and do-it-yourself personalized fabrication.

The undergraduate “Use it!” winner was also a team from MIT, led by Christopher Haid and including Mateo Pena Doll, AJ Perez, and Forrest Pieper. They’re also known as NVBots, a company that offers easy-to-use 3-D printers for the classroom. They are being used at some Boston-area high schools.

Dennis Keohane

IPOs not what they were

How quickly things change.

A few weeks ago, the forecast was all sunshine for initial public offerings, particularly in the tech arena, and very much so in Massachusetts. (Well, mostly sunshine: Executives at Globoforce would tell you differently.)

Then came Thursday. It was supposed to cap the biggest week for IPOs in years, but only three of the day’s seven expected IPOs reached completion, as the Nasdaq fell 3.1 percent. Among those that weren’t to be were the cloud company Paycom Software and a Burlington biotech, Aldeyra Therapeutics.


Earlier, another biotech, Cambridge-based Cerulean Pharma, did complete its IPO, but at a much lower share price than it sought.

The sell off in tech and biotech and the resulting IPO slowdown are being attributed to concerns that companies are overvalued. In Massachusetts, some that have gone public this year have not fared well. Care.com, for one, closed at $12.01 Friday, down from its January IPO price of $17 and a high of $29.25.

On Yahoo Finance’s The Exchange blog, Aaron Pressman wrote Friday that “if the market continues to drop, especially for technology and Internet companies, there’s little chance [upcoming] deals will price. But if things recover quickly, the IPO window could open right back up.”

Kyle Alspach

It’s all in the new name

Practically Green, which enables companies to engage employees in sustainability and responsibility programs, is being rebranded as WeSpire.

“The best way to think about the company,” founder and chief executive Susan Hunt Stevens said, “is that companies can easily roll any of our over 70 different sustainability and responsibility programs to create custom programs for their employees and businesses.”

Clients can build unique benefit programs and create positive work environments by tapping options that include recycling programs, health and well-being, and work/life balance. Companies that partner with WeSpire can improve workplace culture and save money in a variety of ways, the firm said.


Of the new name, Stevens said, “When we first started Practically Green, we were focused on environmental sustainability in the consumer space. What has changed is that for our corporate clients, the idea of sustainability and responsibility is much more broad. The brand wasn’t reflective of what we were doing with our clients. [WeSpire] can tie the available programs to resource cost savings and help increase overall employee engagement.”

WeSpire also debuted a “proprietary ROI calculator” that allows its business customers to “more accurately measure the impact and savings of each individual project.”