Office of Research News

Yuan Zheng, Lise Worthen-Chaudhari and Jacob Mendlovic named 2016 Innovators of the Year

Posted: January 25, 2017

As Ohio State continues to expand its role in the commercialization of research, it is important to create an environment that facilitates and rewards research creativity and entrepreneurship. To support and stimulate entrepreneurial activity among Ohio State researchers, three university-wide awards were presented on January 25, 2017, to Ohio State’s most successful entrepreneurs.

Innovator of the Year: Yuan Zheng

Yuan Zheng, Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons

Yuan Zheng
Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons

The 2016 Innovator of the Year is Yuan Zheng, professor of electrical and computer engineering. He has been a leader in robotics research for more than 35 years, creating innovative structures and mechanisms for robotics in industrial, defense and service applications.

In 2014, Zheng developed the Circular Wave Drive (CWD), a compact and co-axial gear head that allows for speed reduction in rotational motions. Speed reducers represent 36% of the total cost of an industrial robot. Yuan’s CWD was developed as a replacement for the traditional Harmonic Drive Gear (HDG) technology used widely in the robotics industry. The HDG technology uses a special metal alloy that has to be replaced every two years and requires expensive high precision machining.

Zheng’s CWD technology overcomes the shortcomings of the HDG. He developed a low-cost, compact, highly-efficient, ruggedized speed reducing gear system. He increased torque capacity and the life span of the gear by eliminating the use of flexible materials in the design. This invention could mean the formation of a new market of ultra-fast, high-precision steering and automation beyond robotic joints.

IKOVE, a local venture capital company, licensed his technology from the university in 2015 and founded a start-up company called CWD LLC. One U.S. patent and one international patent have been filed. Funding from the Ohio Third Frontier’s Technology Validation and Start-up Fund was used to design and fabricate a prototype CWD.

Early Career Innovator of the Year: Lise Worthen-Chaudhari

Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, research asst. prof. in College of Medicine Dance MFA Photo by Jo McCulty

Lise Worthen-Chaudhari
Photo by Jo McCulty

The 2016 Early Career Innovator of the Year is Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, research assistant professor in physical medicine and rehabilitation and associate director of the Human Motion Analysis and Recovery Laboratory. She uses the art, math and science of movement to integrate the creative arts with rehabilitation science.

Worthen-Chaudhari applies new creative paradigms and emerging technologies–from arts, gaming or other disciplines in the creative sector–to improve human recovery and health by making it more engaging and more data-driven. A biomechanist and former professional dancer, Lise combined her passion for biomechanics and dance to develop a revolutionary new therapy that inspires physical rehabilitation via movement that creates art.

She and her team developed an interactive computer program called Embedded Arts for patients receiving occupational, recreational or physical therapy to recover from traumatic brain injuries, strokes and spinal cord injuries. The program uses motion caption technology to highlight the personal nature of prescribed rehabilitative movement and to document the recovery process. Movement detected by lightweight sensors is translated on a computer screen as an abstract painting.

Worthen-Chaudhari’s technology has been licensed to Columbus-based Rekovo–a company whose mission is to “bring innovative ideas to the health care market that are both affordable and create tremendous positive impact.” The ultimate goal is for patients to be able to use this program at home to continue their therapy.

Student Innovator of the Year: Jacob Mendlovic

Jacob Mendlovic, Mechanical Engineering Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons

Jacob Mendlovic
Photo by Kevin Fitzsimons

The 2016 Student Innovator of the Year is Jacob Mendlovic, a recent Ohio State honors graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in nuclear engineering. He is passionate about using innovative engineering solutions to solve real-world problems.

Mendlovic is the primary inventor of a patent-pending technology that does electrochemical imaging of below ground biomasses and fuel. He developed a microscale platinum wire probe that uses intrinsic electrochemical properties to create images of subsurface biomass structures.

The probe could provide farmers with information about soil conditions that would help them select crops resistant to drought and make adjustments to planting and irrigation techniques. National Park monitors could use the probe to analyze tree and biomass health, helping to mitigate wild fires. The Office of Energy and Environment sees potential for this technology to identify trace chemicals from fracking applications in water. Jacob worked with Shaurya Prakash, associate professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering, on his research.

Spurred by the success of leading a student group to develop cost-cutting methods for small-scale coffee farmers in Honduras, Mendlovic founded “Students for a Sustainable Honduras.” This club brings together teams of undergraduate students to share ideas and expand the impact of student projects across the country. Following graduation, he aided in the creation of a framework for universal metrics in the energy-water-food-social nexus, allowing for a better understanding of the interactions of these resources with the ever-increasing population.

The Innovator of the Year and Early Career Innovator of the Year awards recognize Ohio State researchers who are working actively to promote commercialization of university intellectual property, through invention disclosures filed, patents applied for and/or received, technologies licensed or spin-off companies formed. These activities support economic development in the Central Ohio region, and serve to attract companies that create a base of operations within the state. The creation of separate categories for more established researchers and for early career researchers allows cultivation of an entrepreneurial spirit among all of our investigators.

The Student Innovator of the Year award recognizes innovation and entrepreneurship among our students that has contributed to the development or commercialization of a new technology.

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