More than a dozen teams of graduating seniors practiced pitching ideas to expert judges during two competitions held at the annual Stevens Innovation Expo April 30, 2014. The first-place teams won $3,000 from Stevens plus a one-year membership to the Mission 50 (Hoboken) coworking space.
Aaron Price of New Jersey Tech Meetup moderated both the project plan and elevator pitch competitions. Price, who most recently codeveloped a live event app called livecube, opened the competitions by praising the growing focus on entrepreneurship at Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken).
“I appreciate that Stevens has become such a friend of the entrepreneurial community,” Price said. “I want to thank the Stevens community and [Stevens president] Dr. [Nariman] Farvardin. He’s told me many times, when I talked to him about the opportunities for entrepreneurship around New Jersey, that Stevens is just getting started, and I believe him.”
The judges for the project plan competition, who rated the contenders on presentation and project impact, included Chih Chao, a professor at Tunghai University (Taiwan); Sean Cuttler of Billtrust (Hamilton); Jaclyn Flor of engineering firm T&M Associates (Middletown); Walter Geslak, president of pressure-washing manufacturer L&A Products (New Brunswick); Stevens alum Wei Liao of global firm Accenture; business consultant Paul Wojnicki; and Frank Zammataro, cofounder of renewable energy company Rentricity (New York).
The students of team Power, which stands for “processing organic waste for energy recovery,” won the project competition for their plan to convert food waste on campus to useful compost. According to Salvatore Spinella — whose colleagues included Ann Aquilina, Christopher Ariante, David D’Agostino, Sean Devlin, Clara Luneke, Sarah McDonald and Grace Ridge — Americans waste more than 35 million tons of food, which occupies landfills and can harm the environment, annually. “Our system will be able to recycle 3.5 million pounds of food waste right here on campus while taking up an area no larger than three parking spaces,” Spinella said.
The students in team iAgua, including Samantha Burdett, Michael Cepeda, Amro Elhalim, Laura Josephson, Curt Lowenstein, Christopher Portillo and Nathalie Ramos, won second place and $2,000 for their plan to access more water in dry agricultural locations. Third-place team members Laura Lemke, Megan Lisbon, Luke Niezelski, Elif Sipcikoglu and Barry Travis won $1,000 for their design of an interactive flood wall.
Later, the students of team Vehshi won first place in the elevator pitch competition for their automated bridge-monitoring system. According to presenter Mark Conticchio, engineers are unable to closely, continually inspect the 149,000 bridges in the United States, a failure that has led to more than 600 bridge collapses in the last 20 years. “Data sent directly to the desk of the bridge owner can help engineers capture defects in real time, before collapse happens, saving the lives of the public,” Conticchio said.
Two teams tied for second place in the elevator pitch competition: Gregory Chrin, Steven Orciuolo Jr., Kelly Martin and Brian Filipowicz of Simplified Landfill Solutions, which traps harmful landfill gas, and Sylvana Azana, David Christofalo, Gregory Corradi, Ruby Romero, Shota Tasaki and David Thomasevich, whose Hummingbird First Response has designed a drone that sends disaster-area data to first responders.
The elevator pitch competition judges, who rated the participants on presentation and business viability, included Daryl Bryant of equity crowdfunding portal StartupValley (Saddle Brook); Carlos Cesta, director of corporate development at Verizon; business consultant Ethan Chazin of the Chazin Group (Hoboken); Esther Fraser of Rising Tide Capital (Jersey City); Jeanne Gray, publisher of American Entrepreneurship Today; and Paul Magnone of Deloitte.