Students From CNT Class Work with Industry Affiliate on New Startup Technology

Achievement date: 

A student team is taking a phone app they developed into a startup company, with the original concept having arisen in a college class that was facilitated by the Center for Neurotechnology (CNT), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) based at the University of Washington (UW).


The UW class teaches students how to identify potential engineering solutions to real-life problems and has resulted in several promising prototypes. With support from the CNT, a student team is now turning its panic-attack detection app, called “PanicAway,” into a startup. They are collaborating with CNT industry affiliate LifespanVL to produce a real-world, commercially viable product.


The students were enrolled in the 2019 Neural Engineering Tech Studio class at UW, designed with CNT help to encourage interest in neuroscience, engineering, and technology. The course began in 2013 as a CNT competition called the Tech Sandbox, and it became an official course at UW in 2016. The current version of the course invites students to work in teams to identify a problem, design a neural engineering prototype that addresses that problem, and present their idea to a panel of industry judges.

Industry mentors help assess the market value of the potential products and identify next steps. One team prototyped the PanicAway smartphone app for Apple IPhones and iWatches that can detect heart rate and other symptoms that indicate a panic attack is underway. The app responds with on-the-spot visual, audio, and vibrotactile therapy and appeared promising enough to draw interest from Lifespan Virtual Learning, which develops virtual learning systems.