Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Innovator Showcase Expands at Cmu

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Innovator Showcase Expands at Cmu

Article excerpt

Going into their annual showcase, officials of Carnegie Mellon University's innovation center Project Olympus weren't promising to introduce the world to the next Facebook or Twitter, but they would be happy to show off the next ReCAPTCHA.

ReCAPTCHA, a former Project Olympus project, was acquired by Google in 2009 for an undisclosed amount and is used today on websites worldwide for the dual purpose of translating words for Google Books and identifying -- and frustrating -- human users who type in the questionable terms to access sites.

"Everybody in town wants to be involved [with Project Olympus] now. It's getting huge," said founding director Lenore Blum.

Students, faculty, budding entrepreneurs, investors and anyone eager to hear the latest research innovations coming out of CMU's School of Computer Science are the target audience for today's show- and-tell session, which kicks off inside the University Center's McConomy Auditorium.

Part opportunity to show off accomplishments of faculty -- such as William Whitaker, professor of robotics and chief scientist at RedZone Robotics whose work on a robotic lunar lander has attracted national attention -- the carnival is also a chance to discuss the latest startups before an audience of potential customers and investors.

Ms. Blum, a professor of computer science, said the event's early successes have led to an influx of potential entrepreneurs hoping to help launch the next big idea. Project Olympus hit its peak of 100 projects in March, with at least 20 companies operating today in some capacity.

This year's student work in the spotlight includes The College People, a roommate matching site created by undergraduate Neil Soni; PHRQL, a diabetes-care management app created by graduate Paul Sandberg; auto sales haggling site AutoRef.com, created by undergraduate Todd Medema; and GenevaMars, an educational game and cartoon smartphone app created by graduate Charles Kim.

Projects created out of Scotty Labs, a student technical resource organization, and its signature TartanHacks event, also will share the limelight.

Shane Smith, a CMU freshman who created the app Rukkus. …

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