The extent of Georgia Tech students Zack Braun and Tyler Sisk’s participation in the school’s athletics program is their attendance at Yellow Jackets football and basketball games. However, they have an opportunity to win an ACC championship for their school this week.
Braun and Sisk, friends since middle school and graduates of Northgate High in Newnan, will take part in the inaugural competition for the ACC InVenture Prize. It is an expansion of Tech’s own InVenture competition, in which students compete for cash and free patent filings for inventions that seek to solve societal problems.
The ACC’s academic consortium is conducting the event, in which students from all 15 schools will pitch their inventions in a style reminiscent of the television show “Shark Tank.” It is part of the conference’s push to expand upon its primary purpose as a sports conference.
Braun and Sisk’s invention makes you wonder why no one thought of it before – an electronic device, attachable to a firefighter’s mask, that measures and displays vital signs on a tiny screen, allowing the firefighter to make an informed decision on his or her risk of overexertion or cardiac arrest. The data can also be transmitted to officials on the scene.
Braun, a computer engineering major, and Sisk, an electrical engineering major, developed the idea together after the idea came to Braun following a conversation with a firefighter friend.
“It wasn’t a light-bulb moment for me,” Braun wrote in an e-mail. “It was more of letting the idea percolate for a few days before sharing with Tyler. But once I told him about it, his face did light up like a light bulb. “
They’re still working on the product, called FireHUD (heads-up display) and plan to soon file for patent. It’s a device that obviously has lifesaving implications.
The ACC InVenture competition will take place Tuesday and Wednesday night at Tech’s Ferst Center. All 15 teams will compete Tuesday with a five-team final on Wednesday. More information is available here.
Braun and Sisk answered a few questions via e-mail about themselves and the competition.
Why did you choose Georgia Tech?
Braun: I chose Georgia Tech because leaving high school I did not know what I wanted to major in but I knew that Georgia Tech has top-notch programs in almost every area.
Sisk: My dad went to Tech and I have always had a big interest in engineering so Tech was the best option. I also grew up a Tech sports fan.
How much are you getting into the competitive element of this event?
B: We want to win and represent Georgia Tech well.
S: I felt that at the Georgia Tech InVenture Prize, there was a less competitive atmosphere because we all were really supporting the other teams, too. I think that the ACC competition will be different because we all are representing different schools which have existing rivalries. We also don't have to worry about running into our competitors around campus after the competition.
Do you feel kind of the same motivation to represent Tech well that the school’s athletes do?
S: I do feel a similar motivation. We have had mentors throughout the semester who have been helping us with our idea, prototype, and presentation skills. These people have acted as our "coaches" and are definitely putting pressure on us to represent the school well.
B: We do want to win the competition for the school and for ourselves.
Any school/invention that you’re particularly wary of?
B: I think the Clemson team’s idea (a replacement for Styrofoam) is very interesting. It sounds like it could be an amazing accomplishment if he can truly replace Styrofoam in the cold chain packaging market.
S: I am wary of the Pittsburgh team because their idea (portable oxygen delivery system that can store an hour’s supply of oxygen in an aluminum can) sounds cool and innovative.
Any school that you particularly want to beat?
B: Honestly, Duke, because they are always good at men’s basketball.
S: I would like to beat the Florida State team. After our big homecoming win this year, I feel like our school's rivalry has escalated.
What professional goals/dreams do you have?
B: This may be overly ambitious but I want FireHUD to be distributed across the firefighters in the U.S. and ultimately, protect the protectors (firefighters) that risk their lives every day to help others.
S: Be my own boss and do what I love.