There were 106 projects submitted for the showcase, and the top 30 were offered the chance to compete.
The inventions ranged from a gum that reads glucose levels to an enzyme-replenishing product that would eliminate flushed skin after drinking alcohol. Retractable high heels and a website to help people move to job-rich rural communities also debuted at the competition.
“Overall, I thought the quality was amazing. Every year the quality goes up,” said Dr. Karen Kerr, a judge for the showcase.
The judges look for similar criteria in each projects: the originality of the idea, the passion of the team and the feasibility of the concept.
Ian Murphy, director of communications for the showcase, explained he also looks for a “wow” factor in inventions.
“I love when there are things that I can say ‘I can’t believe that hasn’t been done before,’” Murphy said.
Participants said not many schools offer events of this value and caliber.
“I think it’s phenomenal. It’s incredible that [the USC Stevens Center] puts on these events. It’s very important for the campus ecosystem,” said Matt Lucido, a Marshall graduate student and showcase participant.
His product, Overlap, an app that helps users “bookmark” intriguing restaurants, made it to the final round of Fast Pitches.
“Now I’m just hoping for a successful launch,” Lucido said. “It’s a matter of others finding it useful.”
Murphy feels this event does a great job of putting the spotlight on the life of a student entrepreneur.
“It’s challenging and scary to put yourself out there — entrepreneurs don’t often get credit for it. Student entrepreneurs have to work like a student athlete. They have to learn to balance two separate lives,” Murphy said.
In the final rounds of the competition, the top-10 concepts were given the opportunity to “Fast Pitch” to a panel of judges for cash prizes. At the end of the day, Automatic Hand-Hygiene Verification won the biggest prize of $4,000 for Most Innovative product.
Jonathan Liu, a graduate student at the Keck School of Medicine and part of the team behind Automatic Hand-Hygiene Verification, said the team hopes to go through clinical trials to prove their invention works. Their product involves a sensor in hospitals to detect when doctors do not wash their hands before entering. They also hope to get the device patented.
Many participants agreed the most important part of the showcase was not the opportunity for prize money, but rather the networking possibilities and feedback.
“Someone may have a different twist on your idea that could make it better,” said Nick Cegelski, a freshman majoring in public relations who presented a concept where advertisers wofuld pay to take over customer’s cell phone wallpapers.
Breaking Heels, the project which designed retractable high heels, was presented by Jessica Risch, a second year masters of business administration student. Risch felt the experience alone helped her improve her project.
“I was surprised and honored to be a finalist. The feedback was really helpful for refining my idea,” Risch said. “It’s such a great opportunity to take your business idea and get great exposure to people in the field. It is great networking and I gained a lot of confidence in my pitch.”
Amitha Ganti, a graduate student at Keck and part of the Automatic Hand-Hygiene Verification team, said winning a prize was an added bonus to an already worthwhile event.
“All the inventions were awesome,” Ganti said. “It’s not just about winning, but being a part of it.”