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Swanson School Student Startups Forge Ahead

Three engineering student teams were selected to participate in the Innovation Institute’s new startup incubator - the Forge

PITTSBURGH (November 12, 2019) … Engineering students seek to innovate and design solutions to solve unmet needs in society. Taking an idea from design to development can be a tricky process, but participating in a business incubator can provide a solid launch to successful startups. The University of Pittsburgh provides services to help cultivate students’ creativity, and now, they have announced the Forge - a student startup incubator.

The Forge is run by the Innovation Institute’s Big Idea Center, an on-campus student entrepreneurship hub that offers acceleration, incubation, mentoring, networking, competitions, and events to help students progress their innovations. The incubator will provide up to two years of support as the student groups solidify business plans and build beta versions or prototypes of their products and services.

According to the Innovation Institute, it is open to students of all levels – freshman to postdoc – across every school at the University, as well as recent graduates who have completed previously required programming and competitions through the Big Idea Center.

“We are excited to add a capstone to our continuum of programming and services to help Pitt student innovators bring their big ideas to life and launch them into the world,” said Babs Carryer, director of the Big Idea Center.

Three Swanson School of Engineering student teams were selected for the first Forge cohort.

Posture Protect 

A project that started in the Swanson School’s Art of Making course has navigated through several competitions and received awards from the Swanson School Design Expo, the Innovation Institute’s Startup Blitz, and the Randall Family Big Idea Competition. Tyler Bray and Jacob Meadows, both bioengineering seniors, lead their design team in developing the technology and business strategy for a product that helps people maintain their health in old age. Their initial target market is physical therapists who see people with movement disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease.

“Our mission is to help people to be more proactive and engaged in their own healthcare,” said Meadows. “We’ve learned more than we could’ve imagined in this process about business, design, teamwork, and even ourselves. Posture Protect is excited to continue our human-centered, data-driven approach to build impactful and accessible health technology products for people who need them the most.”

Heart I/O

This project is a digital diagnostics startup led by bioengineering graduate students Utkars Jain and Adam Butchy. Their “smarter cardiac triage” technology uses artificial intelligence to detect problems with a patient’s heart more quickly and accurately at a fraction of the cost of current technology.

“ECGs are one of the first tests that patients reporting with chest pain receive, and I thought that if I could equip ECGs with the computational power of artificial intelligence, I could improve the accuracy of diagnoses,” said Jain.

In 2019, the Heart I/O team was a prize winner in the Randall Family Big Idea Competition and also participated in the prestigious Rice Business Plan Competition.


Biology and chemical engineering major Emily Siegel won the 2019 Randall Family Big Idea grand prize with a biodegradable chewing gum for on-the-go toothbrushing. 

According to a story from PittWire, Siegel envisions that this product not only will benefit busy millennials, but also will appeal to travelers, members of the military and people in places where clean water is difficult to come by.

In addition to the $25,000 grand prize from the Big Idea Competition, Trek also received a $1,500 award from the Big Idea Blitz.

Click here to learn more about the Forge and all nine of the selected teams.


Contact: Leah Russell