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Innovation Challenge winners announced

February 23, 2011

Student innovators took one step closer to realizing their dreams, as 16 teams won a total of $48,000 in grant funding through the ASU Innovation Challenge. Under the soft glow of chandeliers in Old Main's Carson Ballroom, student innovators stood to the applause and cheers of their peers, mentors, friends and supporters.

This year, 16 teams were selected from 30 finalists to win grants – the culmination of the Innovation Challenge, a funding opportunity for ASU students looking to make a difference in local and global communities.

More than 150 teams that consisted of more than 400 students applied this year for $48,000 in funding with individual grants ranging up to $10,000.

"They are living the ideal of what a New American University is, a place where students can go to make their ideas happen," said Audrey Iffert of University Initiatives. Iffert served on the competition's advisory board and gave opening remarks at the winner's announcement.

"Those are 400 students who are bold enough to put forward an idea and have the eagerness to move that idea forward," Iffert said.

One of the winners, Tyler Eltringham, team leader of OneShot, covered his face with his hands in astonishment, hugged his mentor and bound across the stage, accepting the largest grant of the evening to the tune of $10,000.

"I feel like the last six months of my life of not breathing, sleeping or eating has been completely justified," he said.

OneShot is a nonprofit dedicated to providing meningococcal meningitis vaccinations for college students. In a one-for-one fashion, every vaccine given locally means one donated to an area of Africa where the illness is prevalent. OneShot will use the grant to further their plans and implement their idea.

Eltringham and his team, along with all winners, were congratulated by a long line of university leaders as they accepted their award, including deans from the School of Sustainability, W. P. Carey School of Business, College of Technology and Innovation, and College of Public Programs, to name a few.

Student teams faced tough competition and challenges, both against their peers and within themselves to put together impressive ideas for social innovation, submit a well-rounded proposal and then present their ideas to a panel of judges in a nerve-wracking elevator pitch competition.

Another Innovation Challenge winner, Susanna Young, along with her team, Project LOCAL, won a $2,000 grant to continue their work in turning retired shipping containers into safe, clean places for African mothers to give birth, along with establishing training programs for midwives.

"The road getting here was long but exciting," Young said. "We learned a ton from it. There is huge value in taking something that is in your head and actually getting it on the page."

Young said the most nervous she felt came from listening to the names of winning teams being announced and wondering if hers would be called.

"My heart rate (was) continually increasing," she said. "Winners were being ticked off and then (I was) just elated when our name was called."

Other winning teams included an after-school science program that emphasizes the mastery of scientific principles, an online music school that gives teachers the ability to conduct real-time lessons with students from anywhere in the country, and a proof-of-concept development for delivering personalized medicine through new technologies.

This was the second year of the Innovation Challenge, a competition made possible by a generous grant from the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation in Kansas City, and two Innovation Challenge sponsors, James Culver and John Dorsey.

Culver, who also served as an Innovation Challenge Final Round Judge, described the competition as an outstanding opportunity for student entrepreneurs and innovators.

"We talk about the ability and the need to find the balance between profitability and our social conscience, and to see the teams try and create something to bind those two things together," Culver said. "I thought it was awesome."

Charlie Lewis, vice president of venture development at ASU’s Venture Catalyst, encouraged students to continue pushing their ideas forward whether they won or not.

"As trite as it might sound, by not winning today it is certainly not the end of the road for those that are here, as long as you chose for it not to be," Leis said. "Here at the university, there are countless resources at your disposal to continue to advance your entrepreneurial dreams."

Visit ASU Innovation Challenge to read about student projects and see the list of winners.

Written by Kyle Patton, Office of University Initiatives