LaunchPad seeks participants for inclusive autonomous vehicle challenge

Published June 18, 2020

UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars is seeking applicants to take part in the Inclusive Autonomous Vehicle Design Challenge.

The summer program and competition asks student teams to develop ideas for fully autonomous vehicles that enable people with physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities to access jobs, health care and other critical destinations.

Student participants will learn about innovation, inclusive design, product development and autonomous vehicle transportation.

The top three design concepts will receive cash prizes of $1,500, $1,000 and $750, respectively, to be split among team members. Winners will also be invited to work with faculty to further enhance their concepts and compete nationally for the opportunity to develop a working prototype.

The LaunchPad is asking faculty and staff to share information about the challenge with any interested students.

The program is hosted by UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships, Innovation Hub, the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center) in the School of Architecture and Planning, and the Stephen Still Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Logistics.

“We’re very excited to engage our students, as well as individuals in the disability community, automobile manufacturers, community stakeholders and our UB colleagues in this new summer academy. It will be a wonderful learning experience for all,” says Victor Paquet, professor and chair of industrial systems and engineering, who proposed the program.

Faculty and staff interested in volunteering as mentors or speakers in the vehicle challenge or in other LaunchPad summer programs can fill out the LaunchPad’s volunteer form.

The inclusive autonomous vehicle design initiative is part of the LaunchPad’s virtual summer programming, which also includes accelerators that will help student teams develop ventures through weekly programming, workshops, mentorship and more. (Applications for this program are closed.)

About 190 students applied, individually or in teams, to take part in the summer accelerators, says Alex Cleary Pelc, assistant director of the LaunchPad. Accepted participants include students from UB, other SUNY schools, other Western New York colleges and universities, and other institutions in the LaunchPad network.