By Lacey McLaughlin
While using a hydraulic lift for a project, a group of engineering students decided they could design more efficient lift technology for a lower price.
The end result, the Hercules Smart Engine Lift, allows its user to move heavy objects like a car engine by simply pushing it into the desired direction.
This innovation won students Jack Kelm, Elizabeth Rizzo and Taylor Lyons a cash prize of $1,500 at the "Launch Your Venture" Entrepreneurship Expo at Embry-Riddle's College of Business on April 12. Hosted by the Center of Entrepreneurship, the event featured 25 teams that presented their venture ideas during a poster session before a group of judges and the campus community.
"The initial goal was to design a project for an engineering class, and we decided that if we were making it for a class we might as well turn it into a business," Kelm said. "This turns a two-person job into a one-person job, and mechanics have told us they'd love this."
Kelm said part of the award money will be distributed among the student team members who personally invested $1,200 to build the prototype.
Aerobridge is a jetway that allows passengers to board a plane faster through multiple access points. The product, which is designed to increase efficiency and avoid delays, won the $500 People's Choice Award. Designed by Embry-Riddle student Dynamite Obinna, Aerobridge's multiple doors let passengers enter and exit the plane simultaneously.
Additional projects helped patients cope with medical conditions like sleep apnea and visual impairment, while others utilize technology including unmanned systems, robotics and satellites.
Projects such as Sand Be Gone, a sand removal device for beach goers, help consumers solve everyday problems.
"I think the expo is really helpful because we are trying to get feedback," said McKenna James, an aerospace engineering student who presented Sand Be Gone. "People are giving us advice about designing and manufacturing our product. Overall, this gave us insight we didn't have before."
The expo showcased the diverse interests and skills of Embry-Riddle students, said Center for Entrepreneurship Director Dr. Michael Bowers.
"Last year was our first year hosting the expo and it was a great start," Bowers said. "This is a nice momentum builder on top of that. We have more teams this year and a lot larger audience. The judges have been impressed."
The judges included entrepreneurs and members of the venture investment community such as Dr. Peter McAlindon, a Winter-Park based alumnus who is the founder of the technology company Blue Orb, Inc. and co-founder of the venVelo business accelerator and seed capital fund.
The expo also included a networking hour and a panel discussion that encouraged interaction between students and judges. Judge David Whitney, assistant director of the University of Florida Engineering Innovation Institute and venture investor, advised students to focus on solutions their ventures are solving.
"Don't fall in love with ideas," he said. "Ideas are fleeting. Your problems are going to stay with you until they get solved. If you have a great problem-solving solution, sell it to the world."
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