Photo Credit Jan Garrison
The Next Launch competition
April 30, 2019

Using a special plastic film to correct vision took first place at The Next Launch business plan competition Wednesday afternoon. The third annual event was on the Culver Academies campus for the first time this year. It involved 26 student teams from nine high schools in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan. The Next Launch is sponsored by The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur.

The winning concept, called Fision, netted team members Emily Shao, Eva Tuecke, Krisha Patel, and Xiaofan Li the top prize of $25,000. Fision would help reduce the cost of purchasing new glasses – especially for children – as their eyesight changes as they grow, team members told the panel of three judges. The thin film fits over the lenses to change the prescription at a fraction of the cost of buying new glasses or contacts.

The film covers the lenses of existing glasses, making small changes in the prescription. As the prescription changes, the film can be replaced.

The estimated retail price would be $36, they said. The target market would include eye doctors, chain retailers, and insurance companies as potential customers. They also planned to work with non-profit organizations like the Lions Club International to make the product accessible to lower income families around the world.

The potential market is very large, with 50,000 children ages 7 to 16 wearing glasses in the Chicago area alone. The team is from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora, Ill. By updating the polycarbonate film instead of the glasses, the savings for customers would substantial while generating a potential $120 million annually for the company.

The judges in the final round – Dr. Craig Downing of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Kristi Mitchell of Butler University’s Lacy School of Business, and Dr. Tim Baldwin of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business – commented the group should not focus on optometrists or ophthalmologists since they rely on the sale of glasses for part of their income. They did encourage the group to consider online avenues as well as working with larger retail outlets.

It is your intellectual property. You don’t want to see someone selling your idea three or four years down the road.

The Fision team members did say they were seeking a patent for their product and Downing urged all the student presenters to look at protecting their business concepts. “It is your intellectual property. You don’t want to see someone selling your idea three or four years down the road.”

The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy made a clean sweep of the competition, taking the first and second runners-up positions as well. The first runner-up award and $10,000 prize went to Triton Tech by Manasui Thumu, Ahana Narayanan and Shivani Vehkatraman. Their product is a mini-water heater that would warm the existing water in the pipes so people would not have to waste water running the faucet.

They explained that it is estimated that 400 million gallons of water is wasted when people run water until it is hot enough to use. By placing a small module with a sensor and a solenoid valve under the sink, the existing water in the pipes could be heated instantly, similar to an on-demand whole house water heater.

The units could be sold in home supply retailers like Home Depot or Menard’s, they said. The product would be sold to retailers for $45 and they could resell for $100. While the prototype is currently for under sinks, it could be adapted for showers later. And, as production increases, the cost would come down. Consumers also would receive a payback with the savings on their water usage, they added, which also makes the product environmentally friendly.

The second runner-up award and $5,000 prize went to Dialekt by Sophia Pribus. The program is already in operation on a small scale in Aurora, Illinois, she explained, where high school students are helping immigrants learn English and other skills so they can match their skill level with jobs.

She explained that many immigrants are working under their skill level because they don’t understand English, the American units of measurement, and the hiring process. Her mother was one of these people, she added. By using high school students to tutor these immigrants, they can close those skills gaps. The Aurora program is currently partnering with World Relief. The money would allow the program to expand, improve its online presence and train more volunteers.

A Culver Academies team was selected as one of the nine finalists. CAPtrack provides people with an accurate way to ensure that prescription medication is being taken properly. A special container is tied to a mobile application that measures the weight of the medication and also notifies the user when the container is opened. Ava Dauer ’20 (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Annalisse Zuniga ’20 (Laredo, Texas) explained the container allows people to track when and how many pills are being taken each time. That serves two purposes. The first shows someone is stealing or taking too many pills. The second allows caregivers to check if elderly patients are taking their medication as prescribed.

The first round saw the 26 participating teams divided into three smaller groups and present before two judges. Each group had three teams advance to the final round. Other schools participating were Indianapolis Cathedral, Noblesville, International School of Indiana (Indianapolis), Startup Moxie Charter School (South Bend, Ind.), New Trier (Winnetka, Ill.), Huron High School (Ann Arbor, Mich.), and Western Reserve Academy (Hudson, Ohio).

Ron Rubin ’68 came to listen to the Thursday presentations and Mitchell Kokko ’15, who is involved with the Idea Center at the University of Notre Dame, served as the master of ceremonies. The event kicked off with a special talk by 2001 graduate George Foreman III on how he established his business Everybody Fights. Culver’s teams advanced through the Miclot Business Plan Competition in March.

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