Imagine being able to watch and perhaps even contribute to the process of innovation in real time for a year. The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science and the science nonprofit CappSci plan to launch a worldwide contest and bring the winners to the museum to build their concepts for all to experience.
Through a $1 million gift from Ted and Pascale van Kipnis Caplow, CappSci and the museum Thursday plan to announce a five-year series of annual prize contests and inventors-in-residence programs to develop solutions in the health and environmental sectors. The announcements are planned as part of the museum’s Innovation & Engineering Weekend, which extends through Sunday, at its current Coconut Grove location.
Prizes to be offered in 2015: one for the best invention to restore coral reefs, and another to help people detect and reduce their exposure to carcinogens, the museum said.
Building on CappSci’s experience with global competitions, the CappSci Inventors program will solicit submissions of prototype inventions with local relevance and global significance from around the world beginning Thursday. Two winners will be awarded 12- to 18-month residencies at the $300 million science museum under construction in downtown Miami’s Museum Park. Entry forms and more details on the prizes are available at www.cappsci.org.
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In 2013, CappSci established the $1 million Caplow Children’s Prize, the world’s largest prize dedicated to saving the lives of children under the age of 5. But CappSci Inventors is the first contest CappSci has run with a residence program. The $1 million gift will support the program for five years.
“My goal is to find solutions to big problems, but I am also very excited about bringing the practice of science inside the four walls of the science museum,” said Ted Caplow, CEO of CappSci, an applied science company, and an engineer, social entrepreneur and philanthropist who lives in Miami.
Out-of-the-box thinking in both prize categories is needed now, Caplow said. “In the course of my lifetime, and I am 45, I have seen a complete change in the state of Caribbean corals. If you extrapolate that over another 30 or 40 years, scientists are saying that on this side of the world the reefs could be gone.”
While disappearing coral is a massive environmental problem, the healthcare prize tackles cancer. The challenge is to develop an innovative, affordable and portable technology to empower people to detect and/or avoid carcinogens, he said.
The winners of CappSci Inventors will get a $100,000 budget to support their research and be provided lab space at the museum, Caplow said. During their residencies, inventors build out and test their technologies while seeking feedback from the public. Museum visitors can watch the inventors work, read interactive daily project logs, and discuss details of the project with an intern who will serve as a knowledge liaison between the inventor and the public, Caplow said.
The inventors will give periodic talks at the museum, and CappSci and the museum will also provide mentorship. The CappSci Inventors program will end with a demo day, when the innovators can present their work to investors who may help fund commercialization, said Caplow, who is on the museum’s board.
“There’s an emerging science and technology scene here in South Florida and the museum has a vital role to play in making it visible,” said Gillian Thomas, president and CEO of Frost Science. “What I love about this is that anyone around the world can apply but you will see the whole process develop here. Whatever great inventions come out of it will be relevant here but could also work around the world.”
In addition to this gift, the Caplows have previously donated $1 million to the new museum’s five-floor Innovation Center, which will provide classes, maker’s activities, public demonstrations and workshops celebrating innovation and entrepreneurship while also exhibiting the latest global developments. Separately, Caplow’s team and the museum also want to develop a Science Barge, a floating, urban sustainable farm and environmental education center similar to one he founded in New York, but also with marine-related exhibits and programming.
The announcement on Thursday will be followed by a panel discussion on the importance of competitions, featuring local leaders in science, medicine and business. The panel will be moderated by Florida Board of Education member and nonprofit leader Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, and include marine biologist Dr. Andrew Baker from University of Miami, medical entrepreneur Dr. Maurice Ferré, and oncologist Dr. Nicholas C. Lambrou. For more information on Innovation & Engineering Weekend, visit www.miamisci.org/iefrost.
Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.