“It’s really crazy to think that as a college kid I now have five software developers working for me,” said Phillip Gorni, a member of last year’s winning team.
The Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship will work to help students tackle global issues during the Innovation Awards, an event with a track record of creating student-led businesses.
“The Innovation Awards is a weekend-long event open to all students, regardless of subject,” said Megan Sweere, program specialist for the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship. “It’s open to faculty, staff and community members, so really anyone can join us.”
The Innovation Award takes place on Friday from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the ISU Research Park Core Facility and on Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The competition lets participants brainstorm ideas, form teams around their ideas, and then put together a pitch for the final presentations.
The competition is divided into three categories: AgTech, which focuses on increasing the productivity of the agricultural system; EdTech, which focuses on developing more engaging learning experiences; and Global Impact, which focuses on improving the quality of life for people around the world. Each category has its own prize of $2,500.
“I would say the most important thing is to connect with people who have the same mindset and want to start something,” Sweere said. “I especially encourage people who want to do entrepreneurship but don’t currently have an idea to get involved because it’s a great opportunity to either spark an idea or join a team of someone else who is working on an idea that needs people to grow.”
One of the winning teams from last year’s competition came up with the idea of developing software called Safety Scan to keep an eye on employees and safety equipment. Since last year’s competition, which took place in November 2o21, the Safety Scan team has continuously developed their idea.
“So our idea started out as some sort of grain bin sensor, but when we looked into it we realized it already exists,” said Sarah Ng, senior in industrial engineering and a member of the Safety Scan team. “So we switched to software that would help workers with PPE (personal protective equipment).”
After last year’s innovation award, the Safety Scan team continued to participate in various pitch competitions around the country to raise money and raise awareness for their company while learning how to improve their idea.
“I think the overall goal of our idea has stayed the same; We always wanted to try to protect as many workers as possible,” Ng said. “How we would do that has changed quite a bit. We just talked to different people and people in the industry and figured out what the industry wanted and focused on how we could meet those needs.”
Ng said the innovation award is a good starting point for business. The Innovation Awards provided a place to assemble a team and get their idea off to a solid start with the insights of mentors and the competition’s judges.
“So we technically raised $21,000 last year,” said Phillip Gorni, a junior with an aerospace engineering major and a member of the safety scan team. “What’s really left of that is 10 grand just for the business. Just last week I onboarded five software developers, so now we have real people who know how to work on the project.”
The experience of starting and growing your own business is as valuable as the rest of your college education, Gorni said. Working as an entrepreneur in charge of your own business is an experience very different from most students find during typical academic endeavors.
“So it’s amazing because I technically hired them; They are like employees now,” Gorni said. “It’s just crazy to think that as a college kid I now have five software developers working for me, so it’s really awesome.”
Those interested in participating in the innovation award can register online at the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship website.