CoMotion Blog

Amazon Catalyst Fellows launch their big ideas

Written by Gretchen Musgrove / May 1, 2018

Nine new grants fuel brilliant solutions

Amazon Catalyst has awarded nine grants to an eclectic mix of UW students, faculty, and staff to fund big ideas across diverse disciplines including: healthcare, communications, aerospace, and the arts.

The Amazon Catalyst program is a collaboration between UW CoMotion and Amazon to encourage innovation within the UW community. The goal of the program is to inspire people to think big, invent solutions to real-world problems, and make a positive impact on the world.

Open to all three UW campuses and all departments

Now in its 13th round of funding, the Amazon Catalyst program provides the UW-affiliated awardees with mentoring and funding. Amazon Catalyst is not a traditional research fund; it’s a different kind of model that fuels novel, scalable ideas that have the potential to make a significant impact, regardless of discipline or status.

Amazon Catalyst is about thinking big

”The end goal for every project must be a unique, real-world solution. Successful Amazon Catalyst Fellows are obsessed with their big idea – whether it’s related to their field of study or not,” says H.B. Siegel, who leads the Amazon Catalyst program. “They’ve done the work and are ready to take the next step.”

“This program is a prime example of public-private cooperation that CoMotion, UW’s collaborative innovation hub, cultivates,” said Vikram Jandhyala, Vice President for Innovation Strategy and Executive Director of UW CoMotion. “Amazon Catalyst is one of the ways we meet our goals of strengthening the innovation mindset across the UW community and expanding UW’s societal impact.”

$3,554,895 awarded to date

Amazon Catalyst launched in November 2015, and has awarded a total of $3,554,895 to 53 teams.

Meet the Fellows!

You can read full descriptions of Fellows and projects on the Amazon Catalyst website.


New system can predict and avert emergencies in the operating room. fORecast predicts operational and patient safety emergencies based on real-time operating room data trends and mobilizes key administrators and physicians before true crisis occurs.

DAS Boot

A smart boot expedites recovery from injury by monitoring and reporting activity. The DAS Recovery Boot not only fits comfortably and protects the lower leg, but also provides daily feedback to the patient and doctor on use of limb to aid the recovery process.


A hands-free camera records live music. GlimpseCam is a wearable headband camera that allows concert-goers to capture live music without staring through a screen.

Rapid Dehydration Detection Device

Novel method treats pediatric diarrheal diseases before they become fatal. A new device uses ultrasound shear-waves to report a quantitative, real-time measurement of body hydration levels for children, potentially saving thousands of lives.


LTE network-in-a-box helps rural communities all over the world connect to their neighbors and the Internet. IslandCell lets anyone in remote areas – from farmers in eastern Washington to villagers in Indonesia – to buy, install, maintain, and operate their own cellular network.


Artificial Intelligence is leveraged to find the next communication algorithm. DeepCode is a deep-learning system capable of inventing coding schemes and decoding algorithms given the description of a communication channel.

Sun-Earth Trojan Asteroid Mapper

A mission to find minable asteroids closer to Earth. SETAM is a satellite mission that will look for asteroids that are much easier to access than other known asteroids, providing important in situ resources for future space endeavors.

Air Splint

A new pressure-monitoring splint stands up to the rigors of air travel. Air Splint is a responsive air splint that doesn’t lose pressure during medevac transport can help stabilize injuries.

The Encephalophone

Quality of life is improved for paralyzed individuals. UW and Swedish Medical Center have created a hands-free musical instrument that lets paralyzed individuals play music via brain waves.

Previous Fellows. Where are they now?

Slightly Robot

Funded: 2016

Not all Amazon Catalyst Fellows form startups, but many do. UW students (and brothers) Matt and Joseph Toles created their business Slightly Robot, based on their Amazon Catalyst project. It’s a smartwatch app and standalone bracelet that uses an accelerometer to monitor the motion and position of users’ hands, vibrating to let users know whenever they are engaging in body-focused repetitive behaviors such as pulling or picking. Perhaps even more useful, the app tracks the frequency of compulsive behavior over time, meaning that for the first time, users, patients, and researchers can receive accurate, quantitative feedback on their progress.


Funded: 2017

Rahil Jain, a UW Research Assistant in Electrical Engineering used his Amazon Catalyst grant to develop Airy, the world’s first wireless home security system that works without batteries. With Airy, Rahil seeks to reduce the environmental impact of the billions of batteries that end up in landfills worldwide. Airy’s sensors have a tiny generator in them. When the door or window closes or opens, the impact actuates the generator to power a small wireless circuit and send out a wireless signal to the homeowner.

Got a big idea? Hold that thought.

Amazon Catalyst is currently retooling the program in order to better support the UW-Amazon community and have an even bigger social impact. Want to get updates? Sign up for our newsletter.