April 13, 2005
Students' product designs recognized in national competition
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. First-place honors in the Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS, Idea-to-Product Entrepreneurship Competition went to Purdue University's EPICS team working with the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy.
The product the team demonstrated during the competition combined toys with embedded radio frequency (RFID) tags and computer software to create innovative games that help youngsters learn English, spelling and mathematics. The team received the $15,000 first-place prize.
"Being a math and computer science major at Purdue, I didn't have a lot of experience in preparing a business and marketing plan, writing and presenting speeches, designing and developing a product, and all that went into this project," said Alexei Czeskis, a Purdue sophomore in computer science and mathematics from Carmel, Ind., who is part of the eight-member Lafayette Adult Resource Academy (LARA) team. "This entrepreneurial competition taught me those skills. We worked with the LARA center for the past year, and we wanted to develop something with a practical application and that would meet the needs of the people at the center."
Last year's Idea-to-Product winner, Chris Reffikin, president of Data Tracking Solutions Inc., spoke of the excitement and challenges of spinning off an EPICS company through the competition. He also announced this year's top award winner.
The event, which was held April 2 in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Discovery Park, featured an array of new products designed and developed by student teams involved in EPICS and other service-learning organizations. The EPICS Entrepreneurship Initiative organizes the competition.
Winning teams received prizes ranging from the $15,000 first prize to $500. The teams came from Purdue, Butler University in Indianapolis and Bedford North Lawrence High School in Bedford, Ind.
The second-place award, which included a $10,000 prize, went to the Bedford North Lawrence High School team, a service-learning team that works with disabled children. A youngster with cerebral palsy already uses the team's product, a device to help people remember to swallow.
Third place, which included a $5,000 award, went to the Purdue EPICS team serving the Speech, Language and Audiology Clinic team that created a device which alerts the user when the sound levels may be harmful to hearing.
"This competition helps students learn on so many different levels," said Nancy Clement, EPICS Entrepreneurship Initiative program coordinator. "For many students, it is the first time they are exposed to the real world of business, and what they learn through this competition can help them in the future. They learn about intellectual property, patents, supply and demand, market analysis, cost effectiveness and other business considerations."
Other awards included a $1,000 award that went to Purdue's School of Technology team that developed "Sign 3D," an animation-based learning tool for deaf children. The software helps parents and teachers teach math skills to deaf students in K-8 grades. A $500 award went to Butler University's team that developed Web software that integrates a search engine with any type of database-management system. Another $500 award went to the Purdue EPICS team serving Purdue's Office of the Dean of Students. The team's software product provides access information to map handicapped entrances for buildings on the Purdue campus.
Two other teams competed in the regional competition, held April 1 at Purdue. Purdue's EPICS team serving Information Management Systems designed Bon AppliKitchen, a touchscreen electronic device that can be used in the kitchen as an organizer and planner. The Purdue EPICS team serving the Institute for Women and Technology designed Pulsera, a color-changing bracelet.
Judges for the competition were Ron Steuterman, assistant director of special projects for the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship; Michael Menefee, Purdue professor of organizational leadership and supervisor in the College of Technology; Laila Razouk, president and CEO of BioVitesse Inc., a Purdue Research Park company; John Teles, principal for Miramar Limited, a private investment company in Lisle, Ill.; Brion St. Amour, patent attorney for Bose McKinney & Evans LLP in Indianapolis; Jeff Gunsher, associate director of industry relations for Purdue; and Logan Jordan, associate dean of administration for the Purdue Krannert School of Management.
EPICS Entrepreneurship Initiative is housed in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Purdue's Discovery Park. EPICS, which stands for Engineering Projects in Community Service, is led by Leah Jamieson, Ransburg Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, associate dean of engineering for undergraduate education and co-founder of EPICS; Edward J. Coyle, director of EPICS entrepreneurship education, professor of electrical and computer engineering and co-founder of EPICS; and William C. Oakes, associate professor of engineering education and co-director of EPICS.
In addition to its partnership with the Krannert School, other sponsors of the competition are the Purdue Technology Transfer Initiative, the Purdue Innovation Realization Lab. Lilly Endowment Inc., Hollister Inc. and Bose, McKinney and Evans LLP.
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