Students display entrepreneurial spirit at Elon Innovation Challenge

Ten teams presented their ideas, innovations and ventures, competing for “best innovation."

Elon University students from a variety of majors across campus came together on Nov. 2 to present ideas for ventures and social impact concepts during the Elon Innovation Challenge hosted by the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Out of 31 entries, 10 student teams were selected to present their innovations to a panel of judges, who evaluated each entry using a Design Thinking framework as a tool to gauge visibility, feasibility and desirability.

The teams competed for the distinction of “Best Innovation,” which came with a $1,000 award. The runner-up and third-place teams received awards of $500 and $250 respectively.

The finalists were divided into three categories based on the nature of the innovation – social impact, for-profit and local/campus. In addition to the overall top three awards, the top team in each category earned the title of “Best in Category,” and received a $50 award. A Wild Card team was included among the finalists to compete for “Best Innovation,” but was not eligible for “Best in Category.”

Maddie Reynolds ‘19 and Sasha Kagan ‘19 took home “Best Innovation” for their venture Fashion Safety. Reynolds, a strategic communications major, and Kagan, a sociology major, are seeking to develop a hair tie that would test for date rape drugs in drinks. They were driven by their experiences in sorority life and Reynolds’s experience as a resident advisor to develop a way to reduce the rate of rape and sexual assault on college campuses. The team said they will use the prize money to further develop the product.

“We were the Wild Card, so having people believe in the idea was really inspiring,” Reynolds said. “We want to (give) the power back to these victims and (let) them know that there is something that they can do to protect themselves.”

The runner-up team was Food Drive. Team members Tyson Glover ’17, Mikayla Born ’18, Jonas Fries ’17 and Monique Swirsky ’18 aim to work with student drivers and food pantries to deliver food products to low-income neighborhoods.

Interactive Media master’s students Bridget Sheffler, Katie Carpenter and Carmen Erdie were awarded third place for Chronic Control. The team is developing a mobile app to help chronic pain sufferers indicate pain levels, receive treatment and improve their quality of life. 

The finalists:

Social Impact
Food Drive –  Mikayla Born, Jonas Fries, Tyson Glover, Monique Swirsky – “Best in Category” & Second Place Overall
Our Watch – Ifeanyi Obi, Keith Davis, Matt McClary
Yenegat-Chora – Josephine Gardner

For Profit
oke – Jesse Calo – “Best in Category”
Chronic Control – Bridget Sheffler, Katie Carpenter, Carmen Erdie – Third Place Overall
Ryan’s Water Bikes – Ryan McElhinney

Meal Talks
– Kyle Porro, Bryan Speake – “Best in Category”
A Survey for Change – Lianna Pevar
We Can – Tyson Glover, Ethan Jaffe, Drew Johnson, Matt Snow, Maddie Chili, Lawrence Mullin

Wild Card
Fashion S
afety – Maddie Reynolds, Sasha Kagan – “Best Innovation”

While the students share an entrepreneurial spirit, they represent 12 different majors across campus, with fields of study ranging from finance to human services to communications to computer science.

“I thought the students were terrific and I think the Elon Innovation Challenge is a very exciting event to celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship across our campus,” said Alyssa Martina, director of the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. “We at the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership want to encourage entrepreneurship in every way possible and infuse a spirit of innovation throughout our campus.”

The Elon Innovation Challenge judges:

  • Ian Baltutis ’08 – Mayor of Burlington, co-founder of The Vibration Solution, and Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Advisory Board Member
  • Jason Cox – Founder of Co|Operative and managing partner of Aedos Funds
  • Elizabeth Greenberg ‘14 – Founder and chief storyteller of Non-Scents Flowers
  • Ryan Vet ’12 – Co-founder of The Oak House

About the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership
The Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership focuses on experiential education that encourages creative and design thinking, opportunity recognition, and plan formulation and implementation. Throughout the year, the center sponsors innovation-themed co-curricular activities open to all majors. The programming provides opportunities for students to further develop their entrepreneurial mindset and skillset.

By Harrison Raby ’17