3 tips for innovators

Mary Guiden

When four University of Washington students won a tech design competition last March at the CSNE, that might have been the end of the story. But it's not. Since that time, team vHAB has continued to refine and improve on the virtualy reality rehabilitation system they created for the competition. They've worked closely with the UW's Center for Commercialization and have received funding from the Coulter Foundation.

They will soon be launching a pilot study to get feedback from patients on vHAB. And they also found time in recent months to organize a weekend-long hackathon for CSNE students from the UW, MIT and San Diego State University.

Want to be like them? Here are three tips for innovators from team vHAB:

  • It's easy to learn something that you don't know how to do.  vHAB team members have all had to learn a new skill or skills over the last nine months. Tyler taught himself how to use Unity, software that creates a video game, and is now skilled enough to land a side job (if he wanted one). Lars is the resident expert on Blender, free and open-source 3D computer graphics software. He also learned how to use a serger, a sewing machine used in the garment industry, to create a sleeve that vHAB study participants will use.

  • Try something new, and don’t be afraid to fail. Less than one month after winning the Tech Sandbox Competition, team vHAB entered a business plan competition at the University of Washington. They’d had little exposure to business, but ended up placing in the top 20. They learned a lot along the way and the plan they devised has since been tweaked and upgraded.

  • Be open to new experiences, shaking a lot of hands and meeting interesting people. During any given week, team vHAB meets with start-up companies, entrepreneurs and medical experts, constantly seeking advice and guidance as they forge ahead with their product. They were recently invited to attend a virtual reality conference in Seattle; they were the only group from the University of Washington and the only student-led organization. Being invited was a surprise and they had no idea who might be there. Among the many folks he talked with that day, Tyler met David Holz, the chief technology officer and co-founder of Leap Motion, which creates a sensor device that allows you to use your hand and finger motions in the same way you’d use a mouse. vHAB uses the Leap device for its set of games.