UT students win cash for innovative business ideas in competitionWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation (COBI) announced the four winners of its fourth annual Business Innovation Competition on April 15 with $17,500 in prize money being distributed to those winners.
“The spirit of entrepreneurship is critically important to the ongoing success of every university and every community,” said COBI Interim Dean Thomas Sharkey.
“This business competition truly reflects the college’s emphasis on supporting innovation, fostering creative thinking and nurturing the entrepreneurial environment which is so essential for the life and growth of this region.”
Day-to-Day Independent Prosthetic, led by Kyle Wasserman, won first place and $10,000 for its device designed specifically to help double amputee victims with limited use of their hands to gain their independence back to perform day-to-day tasks.
Wasserman, who will graduate from the College of Engineering in May, said the winning product was his senior design project. He worked on the product with other UT engineering students Derek Weickert, who also graduates in May, Daniel Romanko and Robert Castilleja, who graduated in December.
Since Wasserman also claimed the top prize in college’s third annual competition last year, he took the responsibility for the entry in this year’s contest.
“It was a good opportunity to try again,” Wasserman said. “This win means a lot. The money will help and the guidance we receive from faculty and other resources on campus is invaluable.”
Wasserman, along with Kyle Keiser, won the business plan competition last year for their Slide-Off Hangers, a unique hanger design that minimizes damage or stretching when removing shirts. He reported they now have production capabilities and packaging for that item, are working on distribution channels and expect it to be available in stores shortly.
“It is more than just the money. It’s about helping people,” Wasserman said.
The first Day-to-Day Independent Prosthetic Device was developed for and is used by Sister Pat Taube, a local nun who lost both hands.
“She is using the device, which she is able to put on and take off independently. She can now do day-to-day activities that we take for granted, such as feed herself, write or use her cellphone,” Wasserman said.
Minimally Invasive Thrombectomy Device, developed by Ted Otieno, An Nguyen and Mohammad Elahinia, won second place and $5,000. The product is a universal, minimally invasive blood clot removal device, according to the team.
Elahinia is an associate professor of mechanical engineering while Nguyen and Otieno are students in that field at UT. They are working with the UT Medical Center on researching and testing the device to determine its relevance and use in the medical field, Elahinia said.
The Grypshon team of Tom Burden and Bryan Heiser took third place and won $2,000 with their rubberized material used to keep mechanics and their tools from sliding off the aircraft during maintenance and repairs.
Burden and his Grypshon team also won first place in the student category at the Pitch and Pour event in January and won the Startup Weekend Toledo competition at UT in September.
Burden reported earlier that they have found local sources so the Grypshon friction mat will be fully developed and produced in the Toledo area.
The Whitetail Mowing LLC team of Wasserman, Keiser, and Shawn Kluck won honorable mention and $500 for its independent attachable string trimming device that is mounted on a zero turn mower.
“These technologically innovative ideas clearly demonstrate creative thinking within the UT campus, which is exactly what this competition strives to foster. We are pleased to see this competition, now in its fourth year, continue to become a critical step in developing an innovation ecosystem that fosters the creation of legitimate new products and services for our society,” said Dr. Sonny Ariss, chairman of the COBI Management program and Director of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Institute at UT.
“In my eyes, you are all first place winners for taking the time to develop your creative ideas,” Ariss told the finalists. “I congratulate you on earning this prize money, and encourage you to move forward. This money is a seed to continue to develop your ideas.
“Product development is a long process, so put serious time and effort into your idea. You need to be willing to sacrifice for the sake of making it succeed,” Ariss said.
Entries for the fourth COBI business plan competition were due in February. Finalists made an oral presentation about their businesses to a panel of judges in April. Prize money is awarded to the newly formed business entity, not to the individuals, according to UT officials.
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