New York Tech students and Director Michael Nizich holding checks


Engineering Students Take Home Top Prizes at CREATE Symposium

April 15, 2024

Pictured from left: Lincoln Dover, Brandon Castellano, Joanna Sroka, Director of the ETIC Michael Nizich, Winston Wang, Pranaav Venkatasubramanian, and Josiah Turner took home first and second place wins at NYSID’s 2024 CREATE Symposium.

Two teams of College of Engineering and Computing Sciences students traveled to Albany, N.Y., on April 8, where they took home first- and second-place prizes at the New York State Industries for the Disabled’s (NYSID) 10th annual Cultivating Resources for Employment with Assistive TEchnology (CREATE) Symposium.

Each year, the symposium pairs teams of college engineering students with nonprofit organizations supporting those with developmental disabilities. The goal is to design inventions to assist such people in their everyday work tasks.

Team Two, composed of Anila Khan, Josiah Turner, Winston Wang, and Pranaav Venkatasubramanian, scored a first-place win and received a $15,000 prize. Partnered with Spectrum Design, a custom item business creating employment opportunities for those with autism spectrum disorder, the team designed the Gamified Silk Screen Cleaner—an apparatus using electromechanical processes to clean screen-printing equipment more efficiently and in a more sanitary manner.

Spectrum Design creates custom apparel with a variety of methods, including screen printing. Employees currently use a rag and chemicals to manually clean the ink application equipment. Consequently, the job is tedious and messy. With the team’s device, a lid will prevent chemicals from reaching the workers, and features like a leaderboard, timer, and point system will foster better engagement with the task.

Brandon Castellano, Joanna Sroka, and Lincoln Dover comprised Team One, which secured a second-place win and received a $10,000 prize. Partnered with AHRC Nassau, which hosts services like employment readiness and job placement, the team created the SafeChef Cutlery System—a user-controlled knife-cutting system that limits the risk of cutting oneself during food preparation.

AHRC Nassau often provides catering services for New York State government events. However, any process involving knives is not performed by employees with disabilities out of concern for safety. But with the team’s invention, employees’ responsibilities will no longer be limited, as an alert system will preemptively warn users when they make unwanted contact with the knife, and supervisors will be notified of potentially dangerous usage.

“I could not be prouder of my students and the seven months of hard work they put into their designs,” says Michael Nizich, Ph.D., director of the Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center (ETIC).

“The NYSID CREATE competition is an invaluable motivational experience for the student teams.”

The cash prizes awarded to the two teams will be split among the students, New York Tech, AHRC Nassau, and Spectrum Design.