Sporting bare feet and a shiny necktie, Rujing Tang sat in his dining room and wandered back in time. When he was 10, about the age of his fresh-faced fifth-grade daughter, one of his childhood friends went out to swim in a small river in his birthplace of Shanghai. He never came back.
That haunting memory, and Tang’s own near drowning in an Oklahoma state park years later, prompted the financial planner cum inventor to develop a water rescue system that uses drones to deliver a flotation device to distressed swimmers. Telecom giant Verizon was impressed enough to award the project $250,000 last month as part of the company’s 2015 Powerful Answers Award contest.
The yearlong challenge drew 1,400 entries from 78 countries. The contest is designed to help discover and bring to market “technologies that show promise for addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges” in emergency response, transportation and health care, the company said.
The first-place winner in each category collects $1 million.