Six teams of deaf and hard-of-hearing students from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf adapted to a virtual presentation format for this year’s Next Big Idea business competition.
Student presenters from as far away as Dubai shared their ideas for new businesses that positively impact deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. Judges reviewed finalists’ projects and asked questions through remote technology.
First place and $5,000 went to the student team representing MoWay, a solution to help reduce collisions on walkways and in road traffic.
The wearable device is designed to help people who walk as part of their exercise routines avoid collisions with anyone walking behind them. A chip attached to individuals’ smartphones connects to wearable devices that vibrate when cued, detecting people or objects up to 10 feet away. The team — Emma Foster, of Bangor, Maine; Taylor Harris, of Rochester; and Jayha Smith, of West Henrietta — hopes to have the chip included in student and faculty/staff university ID cards.
The student team from SmartPillow presented two concepts to win second place and $3,000. The first is a pillow designed to connect to a phone or tablet using an app with a wake-up alarm and emergency notifications. The second allows the pillow’s app to connect to household alerts such as smoke/carbon detectors, doorbells, car alarms and baby alarms, while including the original option concepts. The app uses the individual’s smartphone charger to plug into the pillow and phone.
The SmartPillow team is Adi Alghifi from RIT’s Dubai campus and JayShaud Potter, of Battle Creek, Michigan.
Third place and $2,000 went to the student team from BLAW, a smart, portable battery checker. The product, designed for automobiles, utility/sports vehicles and boats, is based on the personal experience of one of the presenters, where a boat battery had to be constantly charged. They were unable to hear an audible notification signifying the battery was overcharged and, as a result, the battery was irreversibly damaged.
The new technology is connected via Bluetooth and notifies users if the batteries are fully charged, need to be charged or need replacing. If battery replacement is needed, the app shows nearby stores with available batteries. The BLAW team is Christian Flemming, of West Henrietta, and Braden Ketchum and Tanner Ketchum, of Buda, Texas.
Other competing projects were Smart CC by Connor Switenky, of Frederick, Maryland, and Gabriel Veit, of Austin, Texas; Vinzic by Cody Johnson, of Rochester, and Edie Wilson, of Folly Beach, South Carolina; and Lifpass by Louise Applegate, of Framingham, Massachusetts, and Faith Benton, of Rochester.
“We were impressed with how the students were able to present their proposals,” said Dawnmarie Caggiano, business manager at contest sponsor ZVRS. “It clearly showed their creativity and willingness to adapt to change, especially when we are unsure of how long this pandemic will go on. Each of the teams did a great job and we are extremely proud of all of them.”