Manhattan College Students Compete in Innovation Challenge

by, Jilleen Barrett & Caroline McCarthy, A&E Editor & Asst. Features Editor

The eighth annual Innovation Challenge was hosted by the O’Malley School of Business on Wednesday, March 24. Five teams presented their business ideas to a panel of judges with experience in entrepreneurship, with the top three winners and the audience favorite receiving cash prizes to pursue their ideas.

The teams consisted of Omnia, a clothing app; Wizard, a biodegradable pre-pasted toothbrush; 14th Street Data, a residential real estate application; Apparent, which sought to help small businesses succeed on a larger scale through social media; and i-Adapt, a prosthetic company which ended up winning first place at the competition as well as being voted the audience’s favorite.

“There is an underserved population,” said Shawn Abraham, i-Adapt’s partnership and investor relations liaison. “There are so many people who are living with limb deficiencies. As a number of these people grow every year there needs to be a solution that is both adaptable and affordable.”

The team consisted of Abraham, Finance and Production Operations Manager Alex Castro, Communications and Public Relations Manager Kelly Cwik, and Product Design/ Engineering Manager Steven Palacios. Their product was a prosthetic device for those with limb impairments. Abraham explained the team’s mission during their presentation, which is to help those with disabilities to participate in athletics despite their disablement.

“i-Adapt is an innovative prosthetic design company,” Abraham explained. “Our mission is creating prosthetics to assist those with limb deficiencies in sports recreational activities. Our goal is to provide a tool that can be adapted to a user’s life.”

i-Adapt’s unique design offers removable sockets and arm pieces that will allow artificial limb users to participate in a range of recreational activities formerly unimaginable with a prosthetic limb. Using this technology, those with limb deficiencies will be able to ride bikes, play sports such as baseball and even swim.

Frank Pietrantonio graduated from Manhattan in 1980 with a B.S. in electrical engineering and participated as one of the judges for the Challenge. After the winner was announced, he commented on the team’s efforts to promote a product for a problem that he referred to as an “interesting niche.”

“I think one of the key strengths, certainly, was the dynamism of the team and the enthusiasm for the mission of the team,” Pietrantonio said. “I think the way the team operated together, it kind of created an aura that success was something that they would pursue until they actually achieved it which I thought was great, which is something that’s absolutely critical in an area where you’re likely to fail more than you are to succeed right so just keep that level of enthusiasm and passion going.”

The event consisted of five teams and five judges.

The second prize was awarded to Apparent, a “big data” technology company that organizes and analyzes social media data for small companies trying to grow their online presence. This product is predicted to bring even the smallest businesses into the modern age of social media. Team members Celine Lewandowski, Caroline Voigt, and Teresa Donlon earned $2,500 and runner-up for the audience choice award.

Joseph Demauro and John Maziarz claimed the third place win with their revolutionary idea for an app that treats clothing shopping like Tinder. The app recognizes your swiping patterns and uses its algorithm to show you clothing that fits your preferences. The duo won $1,500 for their presentation.

Donald Gibson, the dean of the business school, wrote in an email what he believes the importance of the Challenge is for students at the college.

“The Challenge is a great opportunity for students across the Manhattan College campus to work on business ideas that solve problems,” Gibson wrote. “Developing a new idea into a business is a very challenging but very rewarding experience, and the Challenge is a way for students to put their ideas into action.

Our alumni entrepreneur experts get involved as mentors to help students develop their ideas. It’s truly amazing to see what they come up with!”

Professor Aileen Farrelly, the Assistant Dean of the O’Malley School of Business, has been coordinator of the Challenge since it began in 2013. She shared similar sentiments as Gibson.

“The Innovation Challenge started off with a small prize of $250 for the winner,” Farrelly said. “Tonight we awarded $4,000 to the winner and over $9,000 in prizes to the participants. This growth was made possible by some very generous alumni donors. Additionally, Over the years, over 30 judges, entrepreneurs, patent lawyers, investors, and faculty across campus have come and donated their time to the Challenge. For this, we are very grateful.”

She noted the necessity of competitions like this for a small school like Manhattan.

“Supporting and promoting initiatives like this is important for the O’Malley School of Business to keep growing,” Farrelly said.

The next step is the Battle of the Bronx: Innovation Style, which will be a competition between the winners of the Challenge and students at Fordham University and will take place on April 13th.

Editor’s Note: Kelly Cwik is a member of The Quadrangle staff.