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Las Vegas Inventors Finding New Ways Around Old Problems


If you think the only innovations on display in Las Vegas are those that take over the Las Vegas Convention Center during the annual Consumer Electronics Show, you’d be wrong.

There are plenty of talented inventors creating one-of-a-kind products in local garages, coffee shops and on college campuses.

They're working on all kinds of improvements to everyday life, including autonomous robots, warning systems that alert drivers to nearby ambulances and even a wheelchair that can be operated by small muscle motions. 

Adam Wolverton is one of a key developers of that wheelchair, which reads electrical signals along the scalp. He designed a headset that communicates to a wheelchair using brain signals and muscle movements.

“We wanted to aim for an inexpensive solution,” says Wolverton. “Our headset has only one channel. We set it up so that you’d be able to toggle through different modes of direction that you want to move in, and the way you toggle is by a quick eyebrow flick.”

But inventing something practical isn’t enough, says Pushkin Kachroo, director of UNLV’s Mendenhall Innovation Program.

Today’s scientists and engineers have to know how to commercialize their products.

“Our effort is to, first of all, get [students] excited, then show them how to design things, and then look at commercial viability,” Kachroo said.

Success also takes a lot of perseverance, which is something Greg Friesmuth, the CEO of Skyworks Aerial Systems, knows a lot about. His drone startup grew out of a class project at UNLV’s engineering department. Today, Friesmuth’s company designs drones for scientists.

“We see there’s going to be a huge potential in a commercial uses, but it’s not here yet,” Friesmuth said, “There is a lot of value and what the commercial world will bring with UAV systems. It’s just a technology that has to catch up. And right now the people that are going to be bringing that technology to light are researchers and private enterprises.”  


Pushkin Kachroo, Director of the Mendenhall Innovation Program

Greg Friesmuth, CEO, Skyworks Aerial Systems

Adam Wolverton, member of the team that developed an Electroncephalography (or EEG) Controlled Wheelchair

Jessica Menchaca, UNLV alumna, a key member of the team Soltranvia that developed plans for a streetcar system that would run along Maryland Parkway

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