Sun, May 19, 2024

Innovating students with an eye to the future

Teams of graduate and undergraduate students at Augusta University identified local challenges and worked to create solutions. It was part of the Annual Innovate Pitch Competition, held March 28 at the Georgia Cyber Innovation and Training Center in Downtown Augusta.

More than a dozen teams tackled challenges that ranged from addressing inflation and food insecurity to dealing with migraine headaches and ways to expand the North Augusta Greeneway.

“We’re proposing expanding it into the Downtown Augusta area and other areas, such as the Augusta Canal and River Watch to Top Golf,” Carter Robinson, a member of the Greeneway Expansion team explained for ABD. “We would connect all of this which would spur economic activity and bring about a vibrant Downtown Augusta area.”

Teammate Colson Herrin said he and Robinson met in a macroeconomics class.

“We were just walking along the boardwalk and realized that there’s mainly empty parking lots and empty warehouses filled with trash and we thought let’s put some parking decks on top of the parking lots and build some restaurants and shops next to the river to utilize what Augusta has to offer,” he said.

Each team is given five minutes to explain the challenge and demonstrate their proposed solution to a panel of judges.

This year’s judges were Christian Ndeti, Innovation Specialist with the VA Augusta Healthcare System; Jack Evans, Director of Organizational Change Management and Strategic Innovations at Augusta University and Allan Soto, Founder and Managing Partner of Vinea Capital.

“When I heard about what they were doing here, and promoting entrepreneurship and the development of ideas that could become big benefits to the community, and into the economy, I definitely was all on board with that premise, and wanted to be involved and support that,” he said.

He added it also fills an important part of education.

“It’s an often overlooked component of our education system, just fostering that creativity. And the idea that you too can come up with a product or a service that impacts the community and make a business out of it,” he said. “I think as the word spreads, it will be something that is nurtured and hopefully real businesses and products and ideas spark out of this that are very visible and tangible in the community, and that too, will help drive this forward.”

The Innovate pitch competition began in 2019 to find solutions for 15-year-old Emma, who had been living with a colostomy bag for eight years, just one of an estimated 500,000 patients facing the same issue. From there, it grew to include a wide range of challenges, identified by students who wanted to find solutions.

This year’s winners are:

Undergraduate First Place Winner

Savvy – A community source application for beating inflation
Students: Alex Larsen, Robert Voetglen, Lauren Clifton

Undergraduate Second Place Winner

Olfactory – a filtration system for Augusta
Students: Gigi Addai-Domfe and Kaitlyn Le

Undergraduate Third Place Winner

TendTogether – addressing food insecurity
Students: Layla Erb and Brandon Wilburn

Undergraduate Audience Choice Award

Rock N’ Roll – Rachet wheelchair
Students: Felix Gonzales Marquez and Casey Seiter

Graduate First Place Winner

Wound Simulation – Training models for wound debridement
Students: Hiroko Tanaka and Rachel Laird

Graduate Second Place Winner

SkinScan – Smart clinical precision photography device
Student: Ladan Kian

Graduate Third Place Winner

Non-Intrusive Classroom Attention Tracking System for Learning Disabilities
Students: Brad Boswell and Andrew Saunders

Graduate Audience Choice Award

Trigemini – Migraine Sensor
Student: Corey Andrews


All the pitches resonated with Soto.

“I thought they were absolutely amazing. And it just goes to show you that the future’s bright with some of the ideas that we had up there,” he said.

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