Apparently, running into each other on football fields or driving the lane on basketball courts aren’t providing enough ways for Atlantic Coast Conference students to claim bragging rights over each other.
Now there’s the inaugural ACC InVenture Prize, in which Georgia Tech takes its annual collegiate version of “Shark Tank” for student entrepreneurs conference-wide. The winning teams, who were competing for $30,000 in cash prizes, were announced Wednesday night at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center Theater, with a statewide PBS audience watching on live television.
While Duke couldn’t join the University of North Carolina in the recent men’s NCAA basketball Final Four, its student innovator team did take the top $15,000 first-place ACC InVenture prize. The University of Virginia captured the 2nd place $10,000 award, and Georgia Tech’s team – having won the 7th InVenture Prize in March – added to its resume by taking the $5,000 People’s Choice award.
Hypepotamus had the opportunity to visit with ACC InVenture participants and finalists earlier on Wednesday:
Duke University’s BioMetrix
When Gabrielle Levac and Ivonna Dumanyan aren’t studying data science and mechanical engineering, they’re running around a track somewhere on Duke University’s campus. The two student athletes (Levac is an NCAA 2nd Team All-American) know about injuries and the struggle to maximize performance, which are the problems their BioMetrix startup tries to solve.
BioMetrix is a combination of wearable sensors and an analytics engine that promises to help athletes prevent injury and understand their biomechanics so they can optimize their training. The sensors are worn directly on the lower back, ankles and elbows, giving athletes and coaches more information on joint stress and torques during practice and gameplay.
“With wearable sensors, they give coaches feedback and shows them exactly what they’re looking at,” she said. “We take that and apply it to all of gameplay – how are someone’s hips positioned? How are they actually performing during a game?”
There are similar products, but Levac said they’re either labor-intensive or don’t provide good data resolution. “The next best thing to BioMetrix is a type of platform that basically acts like a FitBit. It tells you when is the athlete getting tired, how fast are they running. The difference with BioMetrix is it tells you how that athlete is fatiguing, but it also gives you the risk of an ACL tear, risk of a stress fracture. It’s much more detailed, much more useful,” she said.
Have they knocked on famed Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s office door to talk BioMetrix? “We tried, but actually UNC basketball has been more receptive,” Dumanyan said.
University of Virginia’s Team Contraline
“We’re solving the problem of a lack of appealing male contraceptives,” said Kevin Eisenfrats, recent UVA graduate and Contraline co-founder.
Think about it: condoms are affordable but temporary and can be forgotten in the heat of the moment. Vasectomies are day surgeries covered by insurance, but are irreversible and involve incisions. Contraline’s non-invasive, hormone-free solution is, well, a solution injected as liquid into the vas deferens tube in the scrotum. There it becomes a hydrogel that blocks the flow of sperm, is trackable via ultrasound and can be dissolved with the injection of another solution.
“It’s virtually painless because local anesthetics are used,” Eisenfrats said. “Most people don’t feel pain with vasectomies. Here, we’re not doing an incision. You walk in, there’s a quick injection, and you walk out. It’s less prone to surgical complications.” And because it’s a device and not a drug, the FDA approval process and clinical trial period offer fewer obstacles, he added. “We’re not changing anything with the body, we’re not changing the sperm. It’s an occlusion, it’s a device.”
The biggest lessons he’s learned in this, his first entrepreneurial outing? “To assemble a team that know’s what it’s doing,” Eisenfrats said. His team includes a co-founder who started three reproductive medicine companies and a urologist whose wrote a highly-regarded medical school textbook.
Georgia Tech’s Team FireHUD
Zachary Braun and Tyler Sisk are having a really good spring. The two Georgia Tech engineering students’ victory in March’s InVenture Prize competition qualified them for the ACC version of the contest thanks to their entry, the FireHUD oxygen mask for firefighters that includes a heads-up display and accompanying real-time monitoring system for those back in the firetruck or firehouse.
“We were really honored to have won,” Braun said. “There was a lot of great competition, all great ideas. We’ve now begun working on our patent for the actual HUD display.”
The $5,000 won Wednesday night will be added to the $20,000 Georgia Tech InVenture first place prize to help FireHUD with its goal of manufactured masks by the summer. The team is already in discussions with the maker of 90 percent of the firefighter’s masks used in the U.S., Braun said.
If those goals are met this year, Braun won’t forget the mentorship that’s vital for all entrepreneurs. “It’s great to have all the encouragement from Georgia Tech. They really pushed us along, helped coach us for the ACC InVenture Prize. It’s great to have all that support.”