Innovative business ideas win cash for UT students

April 24, 2014 | News, Research, UToday, Business and Innovation, Engineering
By Bob Mackowiak

The winners of The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation’s fourth annual Business Innovation Competition were announced last week, with $17,500 in prize money being distributed to the winners.

Kyle Wasserman took first place in this year’s Business Innovation Competition. Posing for a photo with him were Dr. Thomas Sharkey, left, and Dr. Sonny Ariss.

Kyle Wasserman took first place in this year’s Business Innovation Competition. Posing for a photo with him were Dr. Thomas Sharkey, left, and Dr. Sonny Ariss.

“We congratulate all the participants from the entire University for the extremely high-quality proposals they submitted,” said Dr. Sonny Ariss, professor and chair of the UT Management Department. “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.

“The College of Business and Innovation again clearly demonstrates our support for advancing entrepreneurship by being the sole sponsor of this University-wide competition this year, and we stand ready to offer guidance to help these teams emerge beyond the University into the community. We want to see these ideas and business plans effectively implemented, creating jobs and enhancing the economic growth of the region.”
The winning proposals, the entrant’s name and a brief description of the winning entries are:

First place, $10,000, Kyle Wasserman — Day-to-Day Independent Prosthetic, a device designed specifically to help double amputee victims with limited use of their hands to gain their independence back to perform normal day-to-day tasks.

Second place, $5,000, Ted Otieno, An Nguyen and Dr. Mohammad Elahinia — Minimally Invasive Thrombectomy Device, a universal minimally invasive blood clot removal device.

Third place, $2,000, Tom Burden and Bryan Heiser — Grypshon, a rubberized material used to keep mechanics’ tools from sliding off the aircraft.

Honorable mention, $500, Kyle Wasserman, Shawn Kluck and Kyle Keiser — Whitetail Mowing LLC, an independent attachable string-trimming device that is mounted on a zero-turn mower.

Ariss told the finalists, “In my eyes, you are all first-place winners for taking the time to develop your creative ideas. I congratulate you on earning this prize money, and encourage you to move forward. This money is a seed to continue to develop your idea.”

He added, “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.”

“The spirit of entrepreneurship is critically important to the ongoing success of every university and every community,” noted Dr. Thomas Sharkey, interim dean of the College of Business and Innovation. “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.”

Wasserman, who will graduate from the College of Engineering in May, said his first-place winning product was his senior design project. He worked on the product with UT engineering students Derek Weickert, who graduates this May, and Daniel Romanko and Robert Castilleja, who graduated in December. Since Wasserman also claimed the top prize in the College of Business and Innovation’s third annual competition, 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.”

Yet Wasserman recognizes another level to the competition.

“It is more than just the money,” he said. “It’s about helping people.”

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 cell phone.”

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 said he now has production capabilities and packaging for that item, is working on distribution channels, and expects it to be available in stores shortly.

Entries for the fourth College of Business and Innovation business plan competition were due in February. Finalists made an oral presentation about their businesses to a panel of judges in April. Prize money was awarded to the newly formed business entity, not to the individuals.

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