A panel of industry experts had the difficult task of judging eight innovative ideas presented by Florida Polytechnic University students during the Great Eight competition, which was held on Friday, Feb. 23 at the university’s Innovation, Science & Technology building.
The students pitched their projects “Shark Tank” style to a group of six successful entrepreneurs, investors, and business mentors: Todd Baylis, president of Qgiv, Steve Uiterwyk, serial entrepreneur, Thomas C. McThenia Jr., managing shareholder of GrayRobinson, Meg Bellamy, executive director of Catapult, Henry McCance, chairman of Greylock Partners and Florida Poly Trustee, and Dr. Randy K. Avent, president of Florida Polytechnic University.
“Having industry experts as judges allows the students to be asked the kind of questions they would face from venture capitalists and angel investors, if they were actually starting a business,” said McCance. “It brings real world reality to the competition.”
The annual event had the goal of exploring the possibility of growing the projects into start-up businesses, as well as providing the students with feedback.
“I always encourage young entrepreneurs to have an interdisciplinary team,” Uiterwyk told the students. “Find talented people who complement your skills and work as a team. At the end of the day, it’s all about the people. People buy people.”
Some of the ideas presented to the “sharks” ranged from a virtual reality crime scene simulator for detectives to a device that helps the visually impaired, to the creation of a biometric password and a unique device that measures power in mixed martial arts.
“I am really impressed with the way the students were able to take real problems and develop technology that would solve them,” said Bellamy. “I see potential in a lot of these products to make it to the next level.”
Due to the quality and market potential of all the projects, the judges had a very challenging time choosing the winner, who will compete for $15,000 against projects from the other 11 state universities at the Governor’s Cup in April.
After much deliberation, the winner was Insta-List, a device that captures, scans, and lists items for digital selling in under 10 seconds. It was presented by computer engineering junior Andre Ripley, from the U.S. Virgin Islands, and mechanical engineering junior John Sarnecky, from Naples, Florid.
A close second was Logentix, a product that provides predictive analytics for meal delivery and logistics companies. It was pitched by mechanical engineering senior Randy Lopez, of Winter Haven, Florida.
Third place went to VR CSI Trainer, a virtual reality crime scene simulator for detective training, which was presented by computer science sophomores Alex Maier, of Longwood, Florida., and Omar Montesinos, of Lakeland, Florida.
“This presentation showed that Florida Poly students have great ideas and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Avent. “These type of competitions provide them with an extremely useful experience that they will take into the workforce.”
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