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Reinventing the kitchen

Messy refrigerators can become a black hole for groceries. Shopping lists more often than not still lack essential ingredients after fighting through long checkout lines, and it can be hard to come up with a recipe only using leftovers.

One multi-talented senior thinks he has the solution to these culinary problems.

John Gearheart hopes to solve this supermarket conundrum with his idea for the Ctrl+F Kitchen.

After learning that grocery stores will soon be replacing traditional barcodes with intelligent barcodes, called radio-frequency identification tags, the engineering major was inspired to come up with an idea to overhaul the traditional kitchen.

Media Credit: Michelle Rattinger
Gearheart’s project proposal involves adding inexpensive microchips to kitchen items.

Gearheart’s invention would allow users to track groceries in their home, search recipes that they can make from leftover ingredients and keep tabs on soon-to-be perishable food.

Radio-frequency identification tags use a radio system to track an object, transmitting data from a tag placed on the object and allowing people to track items’ whereabouts as well as stored information like price or product description. They are already used in many industries, tracking the locations of automobiles, pharmaceuticals and animals.

“It involves adding a microchip the size of a grain of sand into every item in your kitchen, installing chip readers in every cabinet and shelf and designing a software program to locate any item,” Gearheart said of his project.

In the most simple terms, “It’s just like when you use your GWorld to tap into a dorm at GWU,” Gearheart said.

A biomedical engineer major, Gearheart had been toying with the idea of the Ctrl+F Kitchen for some time and decided to enter it into the Intel Innovators Competition in December.

“I submitted my idea during finals week just as a distraction from studying, and didn’t expect it to be picked up,” he said.

To his surprise, Gearheart’s Ctrl+F Kitchen was chosen as one of the top 20 ideas out of over 500 entries and is now part of a monthlong Facebook Intel Innovators competition for the top five innovative ideas in categories including science, travel, medicine and sports.

All participants are required to submit a 30-second video explaining the details of their ideas and why they could be influential. On Jan. 23, the top five innovators, selected by most popular vote on Facebook, will present their ideas to five panelists, including Intel’s Chief Financial Officer Joshua Auerbach. The panelists will select the most inventive and potentially impactful idea, ultimately awarding its innovator with $100,000.

As of Jan. 18 Gearheart is in fourth place, and has raised over 6,280,300 points of social capital, a form of gauging support. His biggest competition includes an idea for a computer program that reads online newspapers out loud for the visually impaired, and a cloud system used to store the complete medical histories of each person in the United States.

“I’m very nervous, but since coming back to school, I’ve been e-mailing all of my friends and votes have been coming in from the entire GW University,” Gearheart said.

Gearheart’s spirit for innovation is nothing new, he said.

“I’ve always been inventing things,” Gearheart said, “I came in third place in fifth grade in an invention competition when I developed the idea for a transponder between school buses and homes so you don’t have to guess when the bus is coming.”

Gearheart hopes to work for Johnson & Johnson specializing in optical diagnostics, which he describes as “developing software that relates to keeping an inventory and managing different sensors.”

But for now, John Gearheart is making sure you never forget the milk, eggs or bread at the supermarket again.

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