Manhattan College Hosts Annual Innovation Challenge

by Gabriella DePinhoNews Editor

Manhattan College students had a chance to participate in a campus version of Shark Tank. The O’Malley School of Business hosted its 6th annual Innovation Challenge on March 12 in which 9 teams competed with original ideas for the chance at $5,000 in startup cash.

The event started with a welcome address from Dean Donald Gibson.

“It’s a terrific time to see our students bring excellent business ideas to the table… I’m really looking forward to this clash of wills,” said Gibson.

While the presentations happened on March 12, this challenge has been a nearly year long time investment from the students.

“Everyone should realize the motivation it takes for these students to work on these projects. We launched this in September so a lot of the groups have worked from September, October, November, going to workshops,” said Dean Gibson.

The students also competed in a semi-final round in February before their final presentations.

This year, the competition saw nine teams of students participating, making for one of the largest competitions the school has had.

Seniors Karthik Maddur, Praise Omnipole, and Kishan Thakurdin placed first in the competition with “QuickMech,” a phone app invented with the purpose of helping the user find better car mechanics. They received a $2500 prize to help kickstart their business.

The winning team was goal oriented from the start.

“I think one idea we all shared in common was our mindset upon beginning this project, we all knew we wanted something more than just another time consuming school project, we wanted to kick start our dreams to own or manage a company. We came into this with a work mindset,” Omnipole said in an email.

When the team found out they won, they were thrilled.

Thakurdin said in an email, “We were ecstatic when we found out we won. We knew how hard we worked and how much time we put in so it really was a big accomplishment for us. Personally, I never doubted us and that is the mentality that my team saw and drew from throughout the whole process.”

The second place team was comprised of seniors Tom Englert, Chris Garritano, Madison Jennings, Tara O’Shea, Gianna Pavone and junior Nicole Miller. They invented “ButtonBlitz,” a toy mostly for children with Down Syndrome that helps develop a child’s motor skills. The team received an award of $1500 so they can patent the toy so they can sell it.

ButtonBlitz stemmed from a class project.

“The three engineers on the team, Chris Garritano, Tom Englert and myself, were planning on designing a toy for children with Down Syndrome as our senior design project and were trying to work with a business major to get pricing on manufacturing and selling. The business major, Nicole Miller, did a lot of the research into the business innovation contest and spearheaded the work needed to be our best in the competition,” said Pavone in an email.

After the team gained education major Tara O’Shea, who saw a need for better toys for children with Down Syndrome, and kinesiology major Madison Jennings, the team was ready to go.

“It was amazing [to know we placed]!,” said Pavone. “The other competitors had great businesses and presentations so we knew it was a tough competition. It was a nice feeling knowing that there were other people who saw the product and goal we have been working on all semester and thought it was actually a good idea.”

The third place team comprised of freshmen Lauryn Hughes, Grace McNamara, Grace Taggart and Caroline Voight came up with a more abstract business idea. The team won $500 for “UNLINK” a piece of RFID technology that allows commuters with headphones in to become aware of dangerous surroundings.

The team faced some challenges along the way but were able to complete their proposal and put together what turned out to be a prize winning presentation.

Voight said in an email, “Knowing the problem we wanted to solve was easy, but having absolutely no knowledge of the technology and legalities behind it was the hard part. Luckily, every outside person we showed the idea to loved it, and was willing to teach us more about the technology that we might need.”

She continued.

“Because this is a completely original idea, we didn’t have any competition or other business models to base it off which was tough at first. We have some strong speakers on our team, plus an overall enthusiasm about the project, so the presentation was fun, and fulfilling to present our ideas fully thought out.”

Since the team is all freshmen, they plan to come back to the Innovation challenge next year with a new idea and put what they learned this year to the test.

The other teams all received $100 which actually brought the prize money total to $5,100.

To Dean Gibson, the best part of the challenge is how it brings together students of every major.

“The part that is super cool is the collaboration. We have 12 business students, 12 engineering students and 3 science students. We didn’t engineer this, this is just happened which to me is really amazing and cool,” said Gibson.