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April 22, 2019

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Freshman UNLV students stand out in innovation contest

Hackathon

Lonnie Timmons III / UNLV Creative Services

An all-freshman team from UNLV was awarded first place and $5,000 for studying how the conversion of radio waves into electrical energy could be harnessed to charge wireless devices like cellphones.

A group of UNLV freshmen took home an award at CES this month as part of Beasley Media Group’s inaugural Media Innovation Hackathon.

The team, named the Radio Heads, was awarded first place and $5,000 for studying how the conversion of radio waves into electrical energy could be harnessed to charge wireless devices like cellphones.

“Our teammate Ricardo (Rodriguez) was talking about how wireless charging isn't really wireless,” said UNLV freshman and Radio Heads team member Erick Serrano in a statement. “So what if we figured out something to do with AM and FM frequencies that could charge a device?"

Ultimately, the Radio Heads were unable to convert radio waves into storable energy, but they were able to use a crystal radio to power a low-voltage LED light, concluding that it is difficult, but possible, to use radio waves to power other electrical devices.

Students Matias Allietti (mechanical engineering), Yuria Mann (computer science), Kristine Monsada (computer science), Ricardo Rodriguez (computer science) and Serrano (computer science) worked throughout the fall 2018 semester and were judged by a panel of experts from UNLV and Beasley.

“Think about individuals who need monitoring systems for their health and the benefit of that never losing its charge,” said Natalie Pennington, assistant professor of communication studies and Radio Heads mentor. “Radio waves are around us all the time — the range of the devices that could benefit from radio waves is huge.”

Pennington’s main role was to help with the final report and ensure the project was understandable and accessible.

The Hackathon encouraged student inventors to generate commercial products or services using existing technology.

“We love the idea of smart and logical innovations to ignite our thinking as a media company preparing for the future,” said Beasley Media Group CEO Caroline Beasley. “Many thanks to UNLV and their next generation of brilliant minds for collaborating with us on the Hackathon initiative.”