Newark Innovation Challenge Gives Student and Community Companies Funds to Accelerate Their Ideas

Photo: Michael Ehrlich with NJIT Student Track Category team winners Justin Joseph, Daniel Tanis, and Laura Osorno; alsoTheresa Bedeau, Director of Community Development, Capital One Bank Photo Credit: Capital One

Michael Ehrlich with NJIT Student Track Category team winners Justin Joseph, Daniel Tanis, and Laura Osorno; alsoTheresa Bedeau, Director of Community Development, Capital One Bank | Capital One

At the Newark Innovation Acceleration Challenge, which took place at NJIT on Dec. 2, 2013, young entrepreneurs won the student competition by pitching a business idea built around using sensor equipment to help the visually impaired navigate more safely.

A system for recycling computers efficiently won the portion of the competition featuring entries from the community.

The winners were chosen from 14 teams of startup entrepreneurs, divided equally between teams of college students from Newark-based institutions and teams of community-based entrepreneurs, to present business plans at the competition held at NJIT.

Judges included executives from Capital One Bank, professionals from Newark-based businesses, local angel investors, and faculty and staff from NJIT.

Each of the seven winners (four student and three community track) will receive a $3,000 Capital One Innovation Acceleration Fellowship in the spring to fund their companies’ development over the summer, Michael Ehrlich, an associate professor of finance in NJIT’s School of Management and NJIT Summer Lean Innovation Accelerator Program’s co-director, told NJTechWeekly.com.

All of the winners, plus some additional finalists and others, will participate in the Lean Innovation Accelerator Program this summer, he added. The 10-week NJIT Summer Lean Innovation Accelerator Program uses the Capital One Bank Learning Lab at NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center (EDC), according to Capital One.

First-place student winner SenVis proposes integrating visual and proximity sensors in goggles, augmented canes and wrist bands to help the visually impaired navigate.

Fabio Arias of Caldwell, who presented the device, said his team was struck by the lag in technological improvements in basic navigation equipment and hoped to advance it.

“We still see most blind people walking with canes and dogs, indicating no real progress in navigation equipment despite advancements in technology. We felt it was time they had something better,” Arias said.

The primary winner from the Newark community was Omar Elmessalamy, an IT technician and adjunct faculty member at Essex County College, whose company, Elmes Recycling, is developing a system to direct a higher percentage of computer parts to recyclers and away from landfills, where they leach toxic materials.

Daniel Delehanty, senior director, Community Development Banking, Capital One Bank, said that “fostering entrepreneurship is a driving force for economic development,” and the bank’s partnership with NJIT is one way it supports the Newark community.

The finalists presenting at the event were chosen from nearly 60 applicants who submitted business plans for review in the initial round of judging. Of the four student finalists, three integrated sensors into devices to help in a medical outcome.

The winning student teams from NJIT include:

  • SenVis, presented by Fabio Arias of Caldwell, proposes integrating visual and proximity sensors in goggles, augmented canes and wrist bands to help the visually impaired navigate.
  •  Tremra, presented by Miad Hadaegh of Carlsbad, Calif., is a device employing vibration technology to stabilize kinetic tremors in the hands and feet.
  •  Koala Band, presented by Daniel Tanis of Bloomingdale, is a wireless, ambulatory diagnostic tool for performing in-home sleep studies.
  •  S&D: Science and Dermatology, presented by Laura Osorno of Elizabeth, is a preventive therapeutic method for reducing stretch marks.

The three community track winners were: Omar Elmessalamy, Crystal Rogers and Tamer Marshood.

Ehrlich called the 2013 competitors particularly impressive. The first-, second- and third-place finishers in the student category developed their business concepts in NJIT’s Interdisciplinary Design Studio, an Albert Dorman Honors College program in which student teams identify societal problems and address them through innovative technologies.


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