Following a year of unprecedented innovation and research activity across the UW System, WiSys chose two innovators to receive the Carl E. Gulbrandsen Innovator of the Year award: UW-Green Bay student Sam Hunt and UW-Platteville Assistant Professor Dr. Gokul Gopalakrishnan.
Both innovators have a history of active engagement with WiSys programs and support a culture of innovation at their institutions.
Sam Hunt was the winner of WiSys’ Big Idea tournament and a semi-finalist, out of over 6000 teams worldwide, at the International Business Model Competition for “The Local Food Experiment”, a startup providing affordable food from eco-friendly farms. In addition to this winning startup idea, Sam invented a golf swing coaching tool and was accepted into Gener8tor’s gBeta program. Sam started work as a WiSys Student Ambassador in the summer of 2017, supporting WiSys activities and programs on the UW-Green Bay campus.
Hunt also competed in both Innovation in Aging student idea competitions at UW-Green Bay as well as the 2017 and 2018 Wisconsin Big Idea Tournament statewide championship.
“Sam’s combination of innovative thinking and entrepreneurial drive convinces me that he will be successful in making a go of these businesses,” WiSys President Arjun Sanga said. “He availed himself of all the extra resources to apply what he was learning in the classroom to the real world. We are delighted to recognize his achievements as a WiSys Ambassador and Innovator.”
Dr. Gokul Gopalakrishnan is an assistant professor of engineering physics at UW-Platteville, where he served on the planning committee for WSTS 2017, focusing his energy on recruiting record numbers of students to compete in the annual Poster Symposium and helping to develop the first ever Innovation Showcase.
Gopalakrishnan has also been the recipient of UW System Applied Research Grant funding for his work focused on silicon nanomembranes for piezoresistive MEMS pressure sensors as well as a WiSys Innovation Award for his work focused on fabrication of nanomembrane molecular sieves. Each of these projects has resulted in two innovations being disclosed to WiSys and two provisional patent applications being filed.
He also played a vital role in planning, coordinating and executing the Prototype Hackathon at UW-Platteville in 2018. He was awarded the first WiSys Campus Champion Award for his endless support in engaging his campus.
Gopalakrishnan was also a key planner in the first “Innovation Mixer” at UW-Platteville, an event designed to introduce students of different disciplines to think about applying their classroom knowledge to innovate.
“Gokul is a faculty inventor who epitomizes the spirit of the award in not only contributing his intellectual capital but also his time and energy in getting others involved in innovation,” Sanga said.
Both Hunt and Gopalakrishnan were formally honored during an evening banquet at WSTS 2018 at UW-Parkside, and will continue to be celebrated at local events throughout the 2018-19 school year.
WiSys supports the creation and transfer of innovations from the University of Wisconsin System to the marketplace with the aim of building a culture of innovation for a better future. WiSys is a 501 (c)(3) supporting organization of the UW System and its 11 four-year comprehensive universities.
About the Carl E. Gulbrandsen Innovator of the Year Award
The Carl E. Gulbrandsen Innovator of the Year award was created to honor the former managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) who supported WiSys throughout his 16-year tenure. Since then, his leadership and support have been invaluable to the rapidly growing foundation. Not only has WARF supported WiSys as an affiliate organization over its 17 years of existence, Gulbrandsen has guided the strategic direction of WiSys through his service as Chairman of the board of trustees for the first 14 years and Treasurer for the past three years.