UB Summer Innovation Academy: The Inclusive Autonomous Vehicle Design Challenge

Congratulations to the winners of this challenge!

And a special thank you to our program mentors, judges, and reactors.

Event Recap

The Inclusive Automated Vehicle Design Challenge was the first annual University at Buffalo Summer Innovation Academy, hosted by the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars in partnership with School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The program took place July 13 - August 7, 2020. It was a four-week, non-credit bearing, distance learning event for students from various disciplines to collaboratively develop an innovative design concept to ensure that the next generation of fully autonomous vehicles addresses the needs of everyone, specifically those unable to drive independently. This challenge provided students with a meaningful, educational summertime opportunity in which they learned about innovation, inclusive design, product development and autonomous vehicle transportation while receiving guidance from industry experts, some of which were UB alumni. Students experienced how to effectively work in virtual, interdisciplinary teams, while building their resumes. Among the other benefits of this challenge was a certificate of completion, the opportunity to win cash prizes, and the potential to work with faculty on the development of a larger prototype proposal to present to the U.S. Department of Transportation in October 2020. This event was a valuable, exciting experience for students, especially due to the pandemic health crisis that has impacted in-person learning capabilities.

IDEA center.

Design Concept Areas

Teams focused on hardware and/or software solutions aimed to address barriers in transportation including:

  • Locating an Automated Driving System-dedicated vehicle (ADS-DV)
  • Entering an ADS-DV
  • Securing passengers and mobility equipment
  • Inputting information
  • Interacting with the ADS in routine and emergency situations
  • Exiting an ADS-DV

The Winners

  • 1st Place: Team Trident 
  • 2nd Place: 1-Team 
  • 3rd Place: Team Easeability

Testimonials from Student Participants

Achira Boonrath.

Achira Boonrath

B.S. Aerospace Engineering

“Throughout the program, we attended virtual workshops to learn about the technical, ethical, and legal challenges of inclusive design along with consulting with mentors from multiple UB departments to refine our design concepts. Our team spent countless hours making 3D models, researching necessary information, and preparing presentation slides for the final pitch presentation. It was worth it in the end, as our team was placed in the top three teams of the competition! Overall, the experience is really valuable and I’m glad I took part in it!”

Sarah Langille.

Sarah Langille

M.S. Architecture

“The Autonomous Vehicle Design Challenge was a thought-provoking delve into the universal need for inclusivity. It challenged me to question what is considered normal, gave me the necessary resources to create holistic designs, and provided me the opportunity to work along with a group of like-minded individuals.”

Mira Moukheiber.

Mira Moukheiber

M.S. Data Science

“I experienced a lot of growth through UB’s 2020 Summer Academy: the Autonomous Vehicle Inclusive Design Challenge. I saw the importance of applying an inclusive design to autonomous vehicle transportation and learned about the business, legal and design aspects of the process. Thank you to all the organizers and mentors who made this event possible, and helped my team and I develop our all-inclusive design.”

Shiva Saravanan Omprakash.

Shiva Saravanan Omprakash

M.S. Engineering Sciences (Robotics)

“The fact that we were encouraged to think about an issue from various perspectives was the key highlight of this challenge. I also enjoyed speaking to some of the mentors and their insights helped me understand the nuances of the process to get an idea from the ideation stage to the pitching stage.”

Adithya Pai.

Adithya Pai

M.S. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

“I really enjoyed working with my team for the Inclusive Autonomous Vehicle Design Challenge. I've made great friends and also learned a lot about research and design.”


UB Business and Entrepreneurship Partnerships.
Blackstone Launchpad Powered by Techstars.
UB Innovation Hub.
Stephen Still Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Logistics.
UB Business and Entrepreneurship Partnerships.
UB Innovation Hub.
Blackstone Launchpad Powered by Techstars.
Stephen Still Institute for Sustainable Transportation and Logistics.