Two Canadian high school students spent a weekend at Startup Weekend Vancouver where the girls presented a business plan and theoretical blueprint for an unusual set of cutlery. The silverware would analyze food for allergens in real-time, alerting the user if there is anything present.
The two 11th grade girls won the weekend, taking first place and $10,000 worth of prizes. Their pitch for the innovative cutlery was the culmination of months of work for the two girls.
The business pitch won the day, but the innovation behind the cutlery is where the girls inspired the judges.
Angela Wang and Madeleine Liu of West Point Grey Academy outlined knives, forks and spoons that use near-infrared spectroscopy to analyze the molecular breakdown of food and then transmit that information to a bioinformatics database. If the food is found to contain a known allergen, the cutlery changes color to indicate that it’s not safe.
The two teens plan to continue their research and development to make the product a reality. Canada’s food allergy rate is similar to that of the United States at one in thirteen people.
the original idea for the cutlery, says Wang, was to detect helicobacter pylori, an orally-transmitted disease that can lead to cancer. The wider implication, however, would be food allergies, which are much more common and thus more marketable. Helicobacter is more common in Asia.