BioLink iNurse took home the first prize of $4,000 at the 4th annual Rice Undergraduate Venture Challenge, winning for their presentation about a device to monitor the vital signs of patients in hospitals in the developing world, where the nurse-to-patient ratio is too high for constant individual attention.
The team, made up of bioengineering students Rahul Rekhi and Nathan Lo, and electrical engineering students Fabio Ussher, Eric Palmgren and Abhijit Navlekar, developed their device in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen and have plans to test it at hospitals in Malawi and Ethopia.
The competition allows students the opportunity to pitch inventions and entrepreneurial concepts to judges from the Houston business community. Each team has eight minutes to discuss its project, and then has a four-minute question-and-answer session. Following the pitch presentations, teams go into break-out sessions with judges, where they receive feedback and critique on everything from their products to their presentation style.
The Challenge began in 2010, when engineers working on their senior design projects were encouraged to think about the entrepreneurial opportunities for their creations. Over the last four years, the challenge has grown, and this year, in particular, has been what Mark Embree, co-director of the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership, calls a great year.
“We’ve seen a growth of student-run and student-driven entrepreneurial ventures,” he said, both in terms of students looking at how they can be entrepreneurs and for students working together to find ways to receive seed money and other start-up funds. “They are really looking at ways they can put their technical education to use in the world.”
The Rice Undergraduate Venture Challenge was sponsored by alums Rachel and Bruce Deskin , in collaboration with the Rice Business Collaborative student organization, the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen, the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship and the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership.
“We intend the prize money not only to recognize fine work, but also to nudge these teams toward their next prototype.,” said Embree. “The top three teams get half their money up front, and the balance in payment toward business expenses.
Taking second place, winning $2,000 for ParkiT, an app designed to show drivers where available parking spaces are, were Rushi Patel and Jennifer Ding. Third place winners, taking home $1,000, were Salma Ayoub, Andrew Badachhape, Emily Eggert, Lauren Lou and Anant Subramaniam, part of Team Sphygmo, who designed a low-cost blood-pressure monitor for the developing world. SoundControl, presented by David Howard, took home the student choice award for an app that uses ambient sound to determine how loudly or softly your smart phone’s ring tone or vibration should be.
“Each year has seen a steady increase in student interest in entrepreneurship at Rice,” said Embree. “Students are developing more creative business ideas, and becoming more savvy about market potential and financials. The launch of the student OwlSpark entrepreneurship accelerator this May will provide even more opportunities for students to hone their ideas into viable ventures.”
Other participating teams were:
Chance Me: Sophie Xu, Tori Laxalt
Dr. Essi: Ellen Liu, Mary Anderson, Roy Wu, Ife Owoyemi, Andrew Wu
TravelNinja: Narae Kim, Jiwon Jung, Jaewoo Park, Frank Zhang
The RU Observer: Ben Fisher, Cory Wynn, Gabriel Breternitz, Colin Roberts, Annie Heinrich
Perfusion Solution: Akash Morrison, Aniruddha Sen, Aditya Kumar, Ana Estrada
undefinedHolly Beretto, Engineering Communications