E-Z Utensils, flatware designed to assist the elderly, impaired, and injured with feeding themselves, took first place in the Miclot Business Idea Competition Sunday afternoon. Xavier Harig, who designed the prototype, said the idea came to him while working with military veterans during the summer.
Judges Brian Christner ’79, Phillip Marquell, and Ashley Martin ’03 selected E-Z Utensils as the best concept from the nine presentations given. The top honor includes a $5,000 prize and the opportunity to advance to The Next Launch in the spring.
Harig ’21 (Deerfield, Illinois) created a prototype handle from plastic resin and inserted specially-bent spoon in the handle. Harig said he found through his work with the older veterans, many lacked the fine motor skills to use traditional flatware.
While some knives, spoons, and forks have modified grips, they still require the same movements. By placing the handles in a vertical position, he said, the utensils can be used without turning the wrist. The utensils are intended to be used by injured veterans, the elderly who have lost fine motor movements, and injured athletes, he said.
The first runner-up spot and $1,000 was awarded to SmartCrops by Jacob Page ’20 (Granger, Indiana). Developed for small farmers, the device would allow them to better manage their crops by measuring the temperature, humidity, and soil moisture content.
While larger farms are able to use laser technology, Page said SmartCrops would provide similar details to small farmers at an affordable price. Placing one device per acre in a field would provide enough information to allow the farmer to decide which part of a field needs to be watered. Using a small solar cell for recharging would decrease the need for changing batteries, further reducing costs.
Each device would feed its information to a program on a cell phone, giving the farmer real-time information. More information, such as the soil’s acidity, could be added, he said, but that would increase the cost. The device could also have other applications, such as for golf courses and residential yards, but Page’s target market is farms with 50 acres or less.
The second runner-up position and the winner of $500 was Frame Finder by Liam Shi ’22 (Palo Alto, California), Evan Lu ’21 (San Jose, California), and Grant Dougherty ’22 (Chevy Chase, Maryland). Their concept is to produce a 6-millimeter by 12-millimeter transmitter that would emit a radio frequency that would carry approximately 100 feet.
The transmitter would be small enough to fit on the inside of the earpiece of a person’s glasses. It would be coated so moisture would not affect it. The radio frequency would be picked up by a dedicated app on a person’s phone, showing them the direction of the signal. The person would then follow the signal to find their missing glasses. The transmitters would stop after a few months. They would be sold on a subscription basis.
While the technology could be used on other items, the idea was devised in response to Dougherty helping his grandmother search for her glasses. It would be similar to Tile, which is used to find keys, phones, wallets, and purses, but it would be much smaller and uses a radio frequency instead of Bluetooth or wifi.
Both SmartCrops and Frame Finder will advance to The Next Launch as well. The event is sponsored by The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur and is conducted at Culver Academies in April, Entering its fourth year, the competition includes teams from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio, vying for a top prize of $25,000.
The Miclot Business Idea Competition, started by past Culver parents Andy and Charlene Miclot, who came for the presentations Sunday, was moved from February to October to allow the three teams more time to prepare for The Next Launch.
Six other business concepts were also presented, including:
- ConnectFour: A social media platform that connects up to four people at a time to discuss a variety of topics. Ruth Counts ’23 (Culver) said the platform would allow people from different backgrounds to share their ideas and opinions in an exclusive group chat. It would be designed to promote understanding and open-mindedness, with blocks in place for hate speech or foul language. Funding would come from donations and advertising on the app, she said.
- Book-A-Book: A concept that allow students to buy and sell textbooks or reference material among each other on college campuses. Designed by Jessica Rubin ’22 (Rosharon, Texas), Algae Zhu ’22 (Shanghai), and Jenny Song ’21 (Shanghai), the application would connect buyers and sellers, allowing them to drop off and pick up their books at specific lockers around the campus. A fee would be collected from the transactions.
- Navigo: A global positioning application for use on college campuses showing students the best route from one class to the next. A college would subscribe and then personalize its campus map to show street closures, traffic congestion, and construction so students would be aware of any changes in their normal routes. Advertising from surrounding businesses would also fund the business. The concept was devised by Drew Wynn ’20 (Grand Rapids, Michigan) and Joel Thompkins ’20 (Valparaiso, Indiana).
- SWEAT!: A concept from David Shim ’21 (Seoul, South Korea), Eric Concannon ’20 (Apopka, Florida), and William Yoon ’20 (Seoul, South Korea) that uses technical fabric to help cool the body. The material would draw the heat from the body to help keep someone cool while they are dressed up. The initial item to be constructed would be a belt.
- Needle in a Haystack: A social media application that would allow people to arrange a meeting in a safe location. People would take a personality test that would allow them to meet or talk with people in their comfort zones, a little bit out of that zone, or be “adventurous,” developers Estellee Bignet ’22 (Paris) and Sarah Janney ’22 (Culver) said. There would no likes or followers tied to the application, they said, and it would not be a dating app. Funding would come from ad sales and premium subscriptions, which would eliminate the ads.
- Cuddle Box: A service that combines various products sold on Esty into one themed package and ships as presents or self-care boxes. Each box would be approximately $24.99, co-developer Scarlett Liu ’22 (Beijing) explained. She originally worked on the concept at a summer entrepreneurship program at Northwestern University. Items would be tailored to each person’s preferences. More details are available at this website.