This summer, Cooper Union held its third annual Invention Factory, a competition in which teams of students create and patent their own inventions. After six weeks of preparation, execution and evaluation, the judges announced Jericho’s Giovanni Sanchez, a rising sophomore at Cooper Union, as the first place winner with a prize of $5,000.
Sanchez and his partner, Ruchi Patel, worked rigorously during the summer program to make their potentially life-saving creation, the Sutureself, a reality.
“I worked a lot on this, including pulling a couple of all nighters and stuff like that,” said Sanchez, “It’s a pretty complicated device. In the first week we thought of something like a “button stapler,” and we went to our teachers for approval, [but] they told us to think bigger. So then we thought out something that stitches together human skin and went on with that idea. It would bring the skin together before it’s stapled.”
Engineering students at Cooper Union, mainly from the tristate area, worked long days from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week, in order to make their ideas possible. Each team was provided a budget of $2,000, with “access to and training on laser cutters and 3D printers, the Cooper Union machine shop and machinists,” according to the competition’s website. Additionally, each participant received a stipend of $1,000 as of completion, with funds made possible by a generous donation from the Edward Durbin and Joan Morris Innovation Fund.
Sanchez and his fellow competitors had access not only to top of the line technology, but also to advice from experienced engineers, patent lawyers and entrepreneurs.
“We had weekly presentations to evaluators on everything [in the process], like Alan Patricof [a pioneer in the sector of venture capitalism] and Stanley Lapidus [a medical entrepreneur and CEO of SynapDx].”
The long weeks of preparation led up to July 10, when the inventions were judged.
“At the final presentation we showed our final prototype to a representative from Quarky [an invention company] and Copper Union alums” explained Sanchez. “They decided which was the most useful idea and we ended up winning somehow.”
Sanchez and Patel’s invention had three basic objectives: “to grab the wound edges and bring them together; to bring the suture thread through the skin; and to secure the suture,” according to Sanchez.
“When the device closes it works like a stapler in that the skin grabbers first have to close before the suture goes through,” Sanchez explained, “then further closing of the device will drive the suture through the wound.”
At such an elevated place of success at a young age, Sanchez can easily reflect on the ways in which his Jericho education set him
“In high school there was a program called Project Lead the Way, in which my school started to offer credits at the Rochester Institute of Technology for some courses given,” said Sanchez. “While they didn’t transfer to my school, Cooper Union, I learned some basics of engineering, which got me very interested. Mr. Herbert, the engineering teacher each year, was the best. He was a fun guy and a good friend, and a former engineer himself, so he taught us a lot about what engineering is really like.”
Widespread media outlets have caught onto the potential of the young inventor’s creation. The partners were asked by Alan Wolf, a professor at Cooper Union, to audition for All American Makers, a show produced by Discovery Communications on which Wolf
is a judge.
“If we get some publicity from the TV show, [given] we get on it, we’ll take it from there. Hire a patent lawyer, license it out, [and] make some money off of it,” Sanchez said of his future plans for his product. “I don’t think I want to start a company with it, as there’s so much more I can do with mechanical engineering.”
As for their first place prize, the winners decided to invest their money into improving and developing the Sutureself.
“[We want to] use resources or get some animal testing on our device so it could be FDA approved,” Sanchez said. “Right now we’re looking for a surgeon to partner with and hopefully our professor will have some connection and the judge [Patricof] gives
Sanchez knows that the Invention Factory was only the beginning of a long journey to make his invention a useful and common product, yet he is optimistic.
“If I can do this as a rising sophomore, there’s so much more I can do [in the future],” he said.