FIU innovation, entrepreneurship take center stage at eMerge Americas 2019


From groundbreaking underwater research to promising startups, FIU is a leader in discovery—not just in South Florida, but in the world.

For the sixth year, the university showcased its diverse lineup of forward-thinking students and faculty as well as creative facilities and startups at eMerge Americas 2019, an international conference focused on innovative digital solutions held at Miami Beach Convention Center April 29-30.

Giving startups the boost they need to attract investors

For the entrepreneurs who call StartUP FIU home, eMerge gave them the opportunity to attract potential investors and present their ideas to the South Florida community.

Christopher Estrella ’18, MS ’19 and Nicole Sevilla ’17  said eMerge Americas was the perfect environment for them to present NIROS Technology.

The duo is part of the executive team behind NIROS Technology. The company, founded by professor Professor Anu Godavarty in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, designed a safe hand-held optical scanner that uses infrared light to help clinicians track the progression of healing in wounds.

This is particularly useful for those suffering from diabetic foot ulcers.

Estrella said: “Many people suffering from these ulcers don’t have a diagnosis early enough, so by catching it and being able to monitor it, we can hopefully prevent the number of diabetic amputations that occur.” 

Sevilla added that through events like eMerge, FIU is offering alumni an opportunity to get their work recognized outside of the lab.

“To finally get it to the consumer side was one of our big goals, with this device, especially because it’s a medical device,” she said. “We don’t want it to just stay in the lab. We want to have that translate into the real world and actually bring it into a clinic. So showing it off to so many prospective investors is very useful.”

Robert Aratari, president of 300 Technologies, is also working with StartUP FIU and came to eMerge to present his company’s Clean Air Muffler System (CAMS). The muffler filters out carbon monoxide from gasoline-powered generators by 99 percent.

In an area like South Florida, facing threats of hurricanes every year, generators are essential to any home when preparing for a disaster.

“But one generator puts out as much carbon monoxide as 450 idling cars,” said Aratari, adding that 500 people a year die from gasoline-powered generators, engines and pressure-washers while 20,000 others are sent to the emergency room for carbon monoxide poisoning.

Aratari said FIU’s participation in eMerge gives his company and fellow startups the platform to seek out new investors to expand their product.

“This is just another example of the amazing help I get from FIU.”  

Aquanauts dive into new discoveries

The Medina Aquarius Program at the College of Arts, Sciences & Education features the world’s only underwater lab, where scientists can study the ocean while living in it for days at a time. But after 30 years and some damage following Hurricane Irma, planning has begun for its next phase.

Catherine Guinovart, administrator for FIU’s Center for Coastal Oceans Research, shared 3D models for Aquarius 2.0, the future of the program, at the conference.

Not only does Aquarius give scientists the chance to conduct research that will benefit marine ecosystems such as coral, fish, sharks and more, but it can also serve to benefit astronauts training for space exploration.

“If you think about it, going to Aquarius is the closest thing we have to going to space right now,” Guinovart said. “You’re in a confined space dealing with a small-person crew in a low-gravity environment.”

Another mission of Aquarius is to curb the rapid loss of coral that has taken place the last 50 years,. The center currently houses the deepest underwater coral nursery in the world.

Aquarius 2.0 is being envisioned with the help of two architecture alumni. For future design concepts, they hope to further integrate the growing of coral into that design as well as a place to grow food so those working underwater can have a consistent supply of food that is self-sustaining.

“I think what’s exciting about Aquarius 2.0 —that it will continue breaking boundaries on how scientists do research,” Guinovart said. “Being able to have these models to show people is exciting because it gets people thinking of what’s to come for Aquarius.”

Out of the classroom and into the world

It wouldn’t be an FIU demonstration without a focus on visionary students and faculty members who are excelling in the fields of business, technology and engineering.

After noting the seriousness of water cleanliness in third world countries, Paula Perez, a junior mechanical engineering student, and her fellow team member — Andrew Bowyer, a mechanical engineering undergrad— created Project SWEET.

The College of Engineering & Computing competed in the  Florida Intercollegiate Competition in Technological Innovation (FICTI), a shark-tank style pitch competition highlighting innovative student-led projects representing STEM fields from 10 Florida universities. An FIU team, Project SWEET, a water purification system, won third place. The other FIU team, Virtual Roll Call (VRC), a web-based application that allows officers to do their roll calls from their patrol cards, also had a great presentation.

Georgakopoulos (right) shows his and his origami-inspired antennas to public speaker Pablo Gonzalez.

Professor Stavros V. Georgakopoulos and his team of researchers displayed their ingenious foldable Origami antennas. The compact devices are easily deployable and packaging-efficient, adjusting their shape to changing conditions. The devices are meant to aid in military communication and in use of drones and satellites.

Cengiz Kaygusuz, a graduate student in the College of Engineering & Computing, presented his project on how to authenticate digital users based on data collected by smartwatches on their wrist movements, much like you would with a password.

“It establishes a profile with your wrist movements and when you’re not using the device, it still gathers data to check if the profile falls into accordance with the previously established profile. If it’s not, the user is logged out of the system automatically,” Kaygusuz explained.

He said FIU’s participation in the conferences gave him and fellow students a chance to connect with the local community and get feedback on their ideas.

“Academia can sometimes be isolated and in its own shell, this is an opportunity to break that shell and communicates our ideas with the general public—with people who have never heard of this before.”

Graduate students from the Department of Information Systems and Business Analytics demonstrated their Blockchain project, which recently won second place in a competition at the Association of Information Systems, competing against nearly 40 other universities.

Jose Pineda ’13, MS ’14, a doctoral student who led the project, was eager to present his ideas off at the event.

“We need to have interaction with the industry itself. It’s not enough to just be in the classroom thinking of these things.”

Karlene Cousins, chair of the department, was there to offer her support.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for an emerging technology like this one. We just want to get the word out about the research we are doing,” she said. “FIU is a beacon of education for minorities and a leader in business education. We want to continue the cycle of giving opportunities to our very brilliant students. It is very important for us to engage with the community.”

Cousins was one of the four speakers from FIU at the event alongside Helvetiella Longoria, FIU’s chief information security officer; Dr. Robert Sackstein, dean of the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine; and Brian Fonseca, director of the Jack D. Gordon Institute for Public Policy and executive director of cybersecurity.