Photo Credit Jan Garrison
Winner uses personal story for app
May 18, 2017

A mobile application that would use an avatar to assist students with speech impediments was the winning concept of the inaugural The Next Launch Wednesday afternoon.

Blabl, designed by Ayan Agarwal from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, would give children an artificially intelligent avatar to talk with, letting them practice expressing themselves while getting feedback about their content, pronunciation, and energy. It would use similar software to what is contained in the new interactive Barbie doll, he said.

Blabl was one of nine business idea concepts presented by students from Culver Academies, the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, and Fishers (Ind.) High School. The three finalists from the Miclot Business Competition represented Culver. The Ron Rubin School for the Entrepreneur was the host of the regional competition.

Agarwai’s concept grew out of his personal struggle with a speech impediment, he said. The interactive program would be available to speech pathologists and individual families. The program would allow children to work on their own, using a computer or a mobile device. He received $10,000 for winning the competition.

Next Launch competitors and judges with Ron Rubin (right).

Next Launch competitors and judges with Ron Rubin (right).

There were some really novel ideas. This bodes well for the future.

Ron Rubin ’68 came to watch the first competition conducted at Launch Fishers, a business incubator. Rubin would like to see the competition eventually grow into a national event. He was impressed with what he saw and heard.

“This was great for the inaugural year,” he said. “There were some very professional presentations. I can’t believe they are high school students. There were some really novel ideas. This bodes well for the future.”

Watch an Inside Indiana Business feature on The Next Launch

In fact, the ideas were so good that one of the judges cautioned the students to make sure to protect their concepts. Dr. Craig Downing, the department head and associate professor of engineering management at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, told students they should apply for provisional patents to protect their concepts.

Twin brothers Sushil and Pranav Upadhyayula of IMSA took the first runner-up position and $5,000 prize with their Heat2Heal arthritis wrap. During a break in the action, they were introduced to a team based at Launch Fishers that is using designing compression clothing to help improve circulation.

“Who knows,” John Wechsler of Launch Fishers said, the competition may have just created a new partnership or die-hard competitors.

Culver’s entries included:

  • Class Wrap by Helen Johnston ’18, Rebecca Sun ’18, and Will LeVan ’18. The computer/mobile application allows students and instructors to maintain contact when circumstances prevent it, focusing on class lectures, video-conferencing with classmates, and study sessions.
  • CPIphones by Oscar Casas ’17. The business repairs damaged smartphones by using specially trained college and high school students. The repaired phones are then resold at a lower price, beating corporate competitors. Casas said there are up to 1,000 broken or used smartphones for sale daily.
  • The Scene (formerly Pulse) by Nicholas Walker ’17 and Ryan Gies ’17. This mobile application would serve as the “heartbeat” of a college campus, highlighting everything from major events to very small parties. Each individual could set it up to their personal preferences.

Taking the second runner-up prize of $2,500 was Flameless by Nikhil Madugula and Sivan J. Bhatt of IMSA. The new fire prevention technology extinguishes flames using low frequency sound waves between 30 to 60 Hz. It is designed to fit in the range hoods above residential stoves.

The entries from Fishers High School were:

  • Grove Innovation, LLC, by Max Shores, a software program that focuses on improving the internship experiences for students, their supervisors, and internship deployers.
  • MIND (Mobile Innovation Navigation Device) by Charlie Bernhardt, Jackson Ousley, and Nate Orecchio. The app for high school students has four phases – an assignment notebook tab, a school calendar, an interactive map to navigate the school, and a coupon page students can utilize to save money at local businesses.
  • Louder than Words Jewelry by Rachel Roberts. Her company manufactures jewelry in partnership with a new charity every month. Each bracelet is beaded with a Morse Code message reflecting the purpose of that month’s partner organization. The company raises awareness, funds, and civic involvement.

Along with Downing, Dr. Tim Baldwin, chairman of the Management and Entrepreneurship Department at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and Abby Thompson, director of marking, at Butler University’s Lacy School of Business, served as judges.

Alex Kurrelmeier ’83, director of The Rubin School, and The Rubin School advancement representative Harry Frick organized the event with Launch Fishers. “Alex and Harry did a great job,” Rubin said.

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