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Student awarded for innovation in engineering

Eduardo Torrealba, a graduate student in Mechanical Science and Engineering, is the winner of the seventh annual $30,000 Lemelson-Illinois Student Prize, funded through a partnership with the Lemelson-MIT Program. This prize recognizes and awards innovative students passionate about solving grand challenges and striving to be entrepreneurial. He is one of three 2013 $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prize winners.
Pairing his experiences from trips to developing nations with his skills as a mechanical engineer, Torrealba created his company Oso Technologies. He witnessed problems like water shortages, power outages and air quality warnings that impact the lives of people around the world. However, he also noticed there was widespread cell phone service. By detecting these problems in real time on a hyper local scale and routing resources around or toward the problem areas, millions of lives could be improved.
His first step was the creation of Plant Link, which monitors the moisture needs of specific plants and can deliver water on an as needed basis using smart valves. This system was initially built to ensure that he and his wife could keep their house plants alive, but its applications in other fields are expansive.

By 2025 more than 1.8 billion people around the world will live in areas of absolute water scarcity. In the cases of agriculture and manufacturing, water management will be the key to sustainably utilizing this limited resource. In its early stage, Plant Link will cater to home lawns and gardens where 50% of our domestic water usage occurs. However, a not so distant future version of the system will be aimed at farmers in emerging economies who cannot afford the expensive soil moisture monitoring systems currently on the market giving this technology a huge potential to impact the sustainability and costs of water usage on a global scale.
“Invention is critical to the U.S. economy. It is imperative we instill a passion for invention in today’s youth, while rewarding those who are inspiring role models,” says Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program. “This year’s Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prize winners and finalists prove inventions and inventive ideas have the power to impact countless individuals and entire industries for the better.”

To learn more about the program and the other two winners, visit Lemelson-MIT Collegiate Student Prize Web site.

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