Lemelson-MIT Illinois Student Prize Winner Announced: Kevin Karsch, Graduate Student in Computer Science

TEC News Stories

3/8/2012 12:31:00 PM

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$30,000 Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prizes Awarded to Inventive Students Nationwide; Three Leading Institutes Celebrate 2012 Winners

URBANA, Ill. (March 7, 2012) – Kevin Karsch, a passionate and diligent graduate student in Computer Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, is the sixth annual winner of the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Illinois Student Prize, funded through a partnership with the Lemelson-MIT Program. This prize at Illinois encourages the creation of new, sustainable solutions to real world problems. He is among the three 2012 $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prize winners announced today.

“Like the Post-It® Note, Kevin’s invention succeeds because it solves a common problem in an easy-to-use package,” said his letter of recommendation writer, Alyosha Efros, Finmeccanica Associate Professor of Robotics and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. “The key to the method’s success is a well-designed collaboration between the human and machine.”

In his research, Karsch noted that currently adding digital actors or props to media is a painstakingly long process that requires artistry, expertise, and physical measurements of the scene.  To simplify this process, Karsch developed a new technique for inserting objects and special effects into photographs and videos that requires no scene measurements and can be performed by novice users in only a few minutes.

With over 850,000 views on his online demonstration video and interest from a variety of companies, the tool’s possibilities are versatile and ubiquitous. Thus far, proposals for uses of Karsch’s technology span from 3D modeling to picture editing as well as virtual home and property redecoration. The University is working with him to file for a patent and has already begun licensing agreements. The future looks promising for the advancement of Karsch’s technology.

“Kevin’s system takes several complex technical methods (lighting estimation, perspective modeling, interactive matting, etc.) and puts them into an intuitive interface that outputs a 3D model that works with standard rendering packages,” said Efros. “Kevin has the most important skills of an inventor: ability to incorporate and innovate complex technical ideas; a grasp of the human element in product design; and an understanding of the end-to-end use of a product.”

Karsch has high hopes that his invention will revolutionize current image editing and significantly reduce production cost and time.

“This year’s Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prize winners and finalists from MIT, RPI and UIUC are helping to fulfill the country’s need for innovation. These students’ passion for invention and their ideas will improve people’s lives around the world” states Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. “We applaud their accomplishments that will also undoubtedly inspire future generations of inventors.”

In addition to Karsch, the finalists for this year’s Lemelson-MIT Illinois Student Prize include:

  • Sriram Chandrasekaran PhD Candidate in BioPhysics/School of Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • Muhammed Fazeel – Senior – Integrative Biology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • James Langer – PhD Candidate – Materials Science & Engineering.
  • Pradeep S. Shenoy - PhD Candidate – Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering

Chandrasekaran created versatile computational tools that can rapidly search for drug targets for diseases like tuberculosis. Fazeel developed an innovation that can call emergency services in case of major cardiac events that is affordable and non-invasive.  Langer developed a new class of ion-exchange fiber composite (IXFC) materials exhibiting the potential for efficient, high capacity removal of perchlorate (a toxic rocket fuel component) from drinking water in a low-cost, high-flow configuration. Shenoy’s work on differential power processing has led to techniques that demonstrate system level improvements specifically in microprocessor power delivery and solar PV energy conversion. 

Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prizes
In addition to Karsch’s ground-breaking work, the other winners of the annual Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prize were announced today at their respective universities:

  • Lemelson-MIT Student Prize Winner Miles C. Barr has developed solar cells with the ability to be fabricated on a variety of everyday surfaces, from textiles to car windows. By eliminating the professional installation fee required for rigid solar panels, this approach has the potential to reduce the cost of current solar technology and create an opportunity for universal use of solar energy.
  • Lemelson-MIT Rensselaer Student Prize winner Fazel Yavari has developed a new sensor to detect extremely small quantities of hazardous gases. Made from a 3-D foam of the world’s thinnest material, graphene, this sensor is durable, inexpensive to make, and opens the door to a new generation of gas detectors for use by bomb squads, defense and law enforcement officials, as well as in industrial settings.

Celebrating innovation, inspiring youth

The Lemelson-MIT Program celebrates outstanding innovators and inspires young people to pursue creative lives and careers through invention.

Jerome H. Lemelson, one of U.S. history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy founded the Lemelson-MIT Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1994. It is funded by The Lemelson Foundation and administered by the School of Engineering. The Foundation sparks, sustains and celebrates innovation and the inventive spirit. It supports projects in the U.S. and developing countries that nurture innovators and unleash invention to advance economic, social and environmentally sustainable development. To date The Lemelson Foundation has donated or committed more than U.S. $150 million in support of its mission. http://web.mit.edu/invent/

About the Lemelson-MIT Illinois Student Prize
Administered by the Technology Entrepreneur Center in the College of Engineering, the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Illinois Student Prize is funded through a partnership with the Lemelson-MIT Program, which has awarded the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize to outstanding student inventors at MIT since 1995. http://www.30kprize.illinois.edu/

About the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
A land grant college founded in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is dedicated to its tradition of excellence and innovation its missions: education, research, and public engagement. More than 2,200 faculty members lead nearly 42,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students in a process of discovery and learning in 16 colleges and schools and more than 80 research centers and labs. Illinois faculty members have been recognized with most prestigious national and international awards, including Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, Tony Awards, and National Medals of Science and Technology.  

The University of Illinois is renowned for its international connections and collaborations. These international partnerships provide a growing number of opportunities for Illinois students, as well as faculty, to work with renowned colleagues around the world.

About the College of Engineering at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has a legacy of groundbreaking accomplishments and remarkable new discoveries that change the world and enrich the lives of people everywhere, every day.

The faculty includes engineers, scientists, and educators who are not only leaders in their fields but innovators who pioneered some of those fields. The world-class facilities support collaborations with researchers across disciplines and from around the world.

Excellence in education means preparing students to take leadership roles wherever their aspirations guide them. Engineering at Illinois provides students with the exceptional technical education and professional skills development they need to be successful practitioners, inventors, entrepreneurs, and leaders in industry and academia--positively impacting society around the world.

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