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Severino Center Entrepreneurship Competition Spring 2021 Winners Announced

Severino Center Entrepreneurship Competition Spring 2021 Winners Announced

By Jeanne Hedden Gallagher

May 18, 2021

Winners have been announced for the end-of-year entrepreneurship competitions at the Paul J. and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Earlier this week, the four-member team from won the 2020-2021 Severino Center Change the World Challenge Best of the Best Award. They were selected for the $5,000 prize from the winners of the fall and spring Change the World Challenge competitions. A panel of three alumni judges was asked to rate each project on problem comprehension, customer validation, market analysis, and communication skills. offers immersive virtual reality environments aimed at teaching children with autism, ADHD, and other disorders how to overcome social and environmental anxiety, social and self-advocacy skills, and self-soothing strategies. The multidisciplinary team was comprised of Mason Sklar, Aida Ayuk, Ayah Tharwat, and Mark Muscara.

Also announced this week were the Class of ’51 Award winners. These awards are chosen from teams of undergraduate and graduate students to encourage early development of entrepreneurial ideas. A group of alumni, including a member of the Class of ’51, reviews the business ideas to determine the winners.

First place went Ammar Barbee for Braille Tech, a custom tool and software that can machine braille features directly into signage material, improving upon existing solutions with durability and lower cost. Barbee took home a cash prize of $2,500 to further the development of the business idea.  The second place prize of $1,500 went to Yue Chen, Chuizheng Kong, and Tiffani Szeto for their idea Soc!al, an application for students to build supportive connections virtually and for school officials to better facilitate events relating to the school culture. Abdul-Muiz Yusuff, Josh Malek, Naya Hill, and Julia Huang won the third-place cash prize of $1,000 for Offcmpus, a real estate application that aims to provide an accessible platform for students to easily gain in-depth analysis of a property nearby their school.

The Business Model Competition winners were also recently announced. The goal for the Rensselaer Business Model Competition is to provide student entrepreneurs with the opportunity to improve their business model presentation through workshops, coaching, and virtual practice sessions. Sponsored in part by Rensselaer alumni Vikash and Vikram Agrawal, this competition is judged by community members and alumni who review business elements such as market opportunity, management capability, and growth strategy.

The four-student team from tied for first-place in the Business Model Competition with recent Rensselaer graduate Numfor Mbiziwo-Tiapo, who won for AITA, an AI teaching assistant that enables college instructors to teach more efficiently and facilitate a personalized learning experience for their students. Third place went to Jassiem Robinson for his project EduVISION, a conceptual software-learning platform that develops gaming, animations, and VR applications for K-12 schools to drive STEM achievement and cut learning costs.

The Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship at Rensselaer guides, mentors, and coaches student-based startup businesses from all disciplines across campus to connect those who are starting businesses to resources and networks within and beyond.


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Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,600 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.