Rensselaer Student Entrepreneur Launches Nextbillion.org To Help Those With Disabilities Through Mentorship

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - Spring 2017 Change the World Challenge Winners

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April 19, 2017

Rensselaer Student Entrepreneur Launches Nextbillion.org To Help Those With Disabilities Through Mentorship

Winners announced for spring 2017 and “Best of the Best” in the Rensselaer Change the World Challenge; Class of 1951 Student Entrepreneurship Award winners also announced

Troy, N.Y. — Extraordinary achievements in student innovation at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) were recognized recently with several hallmark entrepreneurship awards—the 11 winning ideas for spring 2017 and the overall “Best of the Best” in the Change the World Challenge, and the Rensselaer Class of 1951 Student Entrepreneurship Awards.

NextBillion.org earned the “Best of the Best” honor and a $5,000 grand prize with its online program platform where university students who have a disability and are passionate about STEM fields can form empowering mentor relationships with industry leaders in the technology space and access job resources from companies. The mentors and mentees are matched based on their stories, experiences, skills, and goals. The mentor platform aims to bridge the gap between people with disabilities and the tech industry. The first cohort included mentors from several Fortune 500 companies. Created by Rensselaer student Ray Parker ’17, chemical engineering. In 2016, NextBillion.org won a World Summit Youth award in the category of innovation for sustainable development goals. 

The Change the World Challenge competition is a twice-yearly event created to support entrepreneurship education and inspire Rensselaer students to consider ways to improve the human condition. Each semester a $10,000 prize is shared by the winning students and student teams who develop the most promising innovative ideas and inventions. The “Best of the Best” award is chosen from the fall 2016 and spring 2017 Change the World Challenge winners. This award accelerates the progress of a student entry that demonstrated a strong commitment and clear momentum in pursuing the commercialization of its idea.

“The Change the World Challenge applies students’ skill sets of innovation, problem solving, and teamwork to develop entrepreneurial solutions to global or local challenges,” said Jason Kuruzovich, faculty director of the Severino Center. “The program involves an eight-week program for customer discovery and coaching from our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence.” 

Established in 2005 by Rensselaer alumnus and entrepreneur Sean O’Sullivan ’85, the Change the World Challenge competition has helped to validate more than 150 new student ideas. The competition is overseen by the Paul J. ’69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship in the Rensselaer Lally School of Management.

“So many innovative products and services are created each year by Rensselaer students in the supportive and inspiring ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship here at this Institute,” said Thomas Begley, dean of the Lally School of Management. “The Change the World Challenge, made possible by the generosity of Sean O’Sullivan, is a premier stage for the collaboration, hard work, and dedication to creating solutions for social good.”

The exciting outcomes from the Change the World Challenge are a reflection of The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer. The New Polytechnic emphasizes and supports collaboration across disciplines, sectors, and regions to address the great global challenges of our day, using the most advanced tools and technologies, many of which are developed at Rensselaer. Research at Rensselaer addresses some of the world’s most pressing technological challenges—from energy security and sustainable development to biotechnology and human health. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.

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The winning ideas for the spring 2017 Change the World Challenge ($10,000 prize shared by winning teams) are:

Dev360 Additive Systems – provides a “tailored” 3-D printing experience that allows customers to get what they want out of 3-D printing technology. Created by Kyle Szendro ’20, electrical engineering.

Dicey Veins – a streetwear clothing company that speaks to youth with relatable messaging. Created by Daniel Lannan ’18, electrical engineering.

Fridge Assistant – a multi-feature app that is simple to use and encompasses a solution for many issues including recipe suggestions and product freshness tracking. Created by Madison Wyatt ’18, physics and applied mathematics, and Christopher Lore ’18, geology.

Green Revolving Fund – promoting campus sustainability through reinvested savings discovered through sustainable energy projects. Rather than reduce the school’s operating costs, the money saved through these energy efficiency projects is reinvested annually into an account that uses the accumulated funds to promote campus sustainability and save the school more energy. Created by Luke Bateman ’19, design, innovation, and society and mechanical engineering; Caitlin Golden ’20, environmental engineering; Zining Liang ’19, design, innovation, and society and mechanical engineering; Lei Luo ’20, design, innovation, and society; Anna Miliakos ’20, chemical engineering; and Allison Mrugal ’18, design, innovation, and society.

GridStarr – a deferred action saltwater battery back-up power solution for the home. Created by Patrick Calhoun ’17, mechanical engineering and technology, commercialization, and entrepreneurship; Jacqueline Curtsinger ’17, chemical engineering; and Zachary Hileman ’17, biomedical engineering.

GT Vacuum Technologies – aims to radically simplify how high to ultra-high vacuums are achieved and sustained in both research and industrial applications. Created by Geoffrey Thomas ’19, aeronautical engineering and mechanical engineering, and Misha Shiltsev ’19, computer and systems engineering and computer science.

Innovative Economic Analytics – an easy-to-use wealth management system providing a point of entry into the stock market for novice investors. Created by Nicholas Carey ’20, aeronautical engineering, Galen Gold ’20, electrical engineering, Cameron Fearrington ’20, aeronautical engineering, Rishabh Shadra ’20, computer and systems engineering, Christian Assimus ’20, computer and systems engineering, and Jordan Henault ’20, aeronautical engineering.

LC Rapid Consulting – offers a package of managed marketing, analytics, and advertising solutions to small businesses lacking the skills to do it themselves. Created by Lucien Brule ’19, computer systems engineering, and Cameron Hackett ’19, business and management.

Legion – an improved Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) program delivering mission critical visual data to the fingertips of officers, as well as providing an information technology platform to enhance community policing initiatives. Created by David Haggerty ’17, design, innovation, and society.

NextBillion.org – an online platform where people with disabilities can form empowering mentor relationships with industry leaders in the technology space and access job resources from companies based on shared knowledge, resources, and opportunities. Created by Ray Parker ’17, chemical engineering.

The Equal Zone a pop-up store featuring gender-neutral clothing for the LGBTQIA community. Created by Sara Bischof ’17, mechanical engineering and design, innovation, and society.

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The Rensselaer Class of 1951 Student Entrepreneurship Award was established over a decade ago to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to pursue early development of entrepreneurial ideas into successful ventures. The group is one of the most active, generous, and supportive alumni/ae groups at Rensselaer.

Rensselaer Class of 1951 Student Entrepreneurship Award winners:

First place ($2,500): GridStarr – a deferred action saltwater battery back-up power solution for the home. Created by Patrick Calhoun ’17, mechanical engineering and technology, commercialization, and entrepreneurship; Jacqueline Curtsinger ’17, chemical engineering; and Zachary Hileman ’17 biomedical engineering.

Second place ($1,500): GT Vacuum Technologies – aims to radically simplify how high to ultra-high vacuums are achieved and sustained in both research and industrial applications. Created by Geoffrey Thomas ’19, aeronautical engineering and mechanical engineering, and Mikhail Shiltsev ’19, computer and systems engineering and computer science.

Third place ($1,000): Chloe.ai Chloe is a personal productivity assistant that will keep users accountable via a conversational interface as well as provide actionable reports to improve their productivity. Created by Charlie You ’18, computer science, and Ray Parker ’17, chemical engineering.

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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 85 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to www.rpi.edu.