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ASU announces Innovation Challenge finalists

January 25, 2011

The Arizona State University Innovation Challenge, a funding opportunity for ASU undergraduate and graduate students looking to make a difference in local and global communities, announced the list of finalists Jan. 22, bringing 30 student teams closer to the chance of winning up to $10,000.

This year 153 applicants applied for the competition, a 50 percent increase from last year. Last spring, 16 teams were awarded funding ranging from $2,000 to $5,000.

Last year, $35,000 was distributed to student teams. More than $45,000 will be awarded this year, with grants ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

Student teams submitted proposals that outlined their innovative ideas, the impact of those ideas, and plans for idea implementation. Finalists will present to a panel of judges Feb. 15 as part of the selection process.

Finalists include Eric Luster, a graduate student studying Computer Science and Information Assurance and his team Reactive Mobile Cloud. Luster’s idea involved using state-of-the-art censors to monitor and analyze real-time collision data in sports, like helmet collisions in football, in order to prevent injury and gather data about the physical stress athletes endure.

Luster, who won Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative funding in 2010, credits the Innovation Challenge for kick-starting his team into doing more than just research.

“It forced the group to sit down and take a look at what we needed to do in terms of a budget, which was part of the application,” Luster said. “It made us look at what kinds of solutions are out there, to dig deeper into areas that, as computer science students, we never would have looked at.”

Another finalist, Kevin Keller, a junior majoring in Chinese, and a student in Barrett, the Honors College, said that the Innovation Challenge brought the needed push for him and his team, Science Detectives, to take the next step in expanding their work. Keller’s team focuses on teaching the importance of science and scientific thinking to younger children. As an already existing program, Keller plans to use Innovation Challenge funding he is applying for to expand outreach.

“We really think it will snowball,” he said. “Right now we have three classes at two schools and over 70 students.”
Keller expects that number to increase significantly. If his team wins, they would have the money to invest in growing their resources, he says.

Stacy Holmstedt, a round one judge for the Innovation Challenge and the director of internet marketing at the ASU Foundation for a New American University, said she looked for ideas with solid feasibility. Holmstedt was one of 24 first round judges.

“My hope is that everyone who applies learns something from the process,” she said. “Not just how to nurture and finesse an innovative idea, but how to write a compelling proposal and defend it.”

Holmstedt, an ASU alum, said she was proud of how much thinking and dreaming current students were doing and that the proposals showed a range of interest in solving problems.

“I wish them all luck in making their ideas happen.”

Written by Kyle Patton, writer, Office of University Initiatives