A student talks in front of others in an auditorium.
Students make their final 5-minute pitches during the Innovate Pitch competition

Students address real-world issues during annual Innovate Pitch competition

For the first time in the five year history of the annual Innovate Pitch Competition, there were both undergraduate and graduate awards given to the top teams competing.

Overall there were nearly 350 submissions for the competition with the final 11 undergraduate and six graduate student teams having moved on to the pitch stage of the competition. The teams were each given five minutes to make their pitch with the aim to solve real-world problems locally and beyond.

The top three teams in each division were awarded prize money, and a fourth team in each area was awarded the audience choice award.

This year’s winners in the undergraduate category were Alex Larsen, Robert Voetglen and Laura Clifton with their pitch “A community source application for beating inflation,” an app to help tackle inflation. The program would help families find the best deals, mainly for groceries.

A male and female college student pose with a trophy during an awards ceremony after a competition.
Alex Larsen, Laura Clifton and Robert Voetglen (not pictured) won the undergraduate portion of the Innovation Pitch competition.

Larsen is a fourth-year undergraduate informational technology major in the School of Computer and Cyber Sciences who also works at Food Lion where he sees people struggle to pay their food bill every day.

“I watch families come in and struggle and have to scan back things and put them back and trying to figure out to fit into their budget,” said Larsen. “It definitely inspired a big portion of this app.”

Clifton, a fourth-year undergraduate business major in the James M. Hull College of Business, winning is a big deal because of the amount of work that went into the project and the desire to make it succeed.

“We put in a lot of work, especially with our conflicting schedules, because all of us work and have various classes,” said Clifton. “It was important to us to work as a team and collaborate so that way we could meet our goal and hopefully help some future families.”

On the graduate side of the competition, Hiroko Tanaka and Rachel Laird collected the $5,000 first-place prize with their pitch “Training models for wound debridement.”

Tanaka and Laird are in their final year as medical illustration students in the College of Allied Health Sciences and went beyond the illustration part by actually creating 3D-printed models of wounds with different skin tones that can be used to practice cleaning wounds.

Two female students smile with an Innovate competition trophy.
Hiroko Tanaka and Rachel Laird win the graduate portion of the Innovative Pitch competition.

“This was actually pitched to us by the Department of Physical Therapy when we were picking our master’s project, our capstone. A group of doctors came to us with medical illustration needs. We also talked with Dr. Megan Mobley in the Physical Therapy Department, and we came up with this idea together,” said Laird.

The duo took a 3D model class and had a similar project to make skin cubes for doctors to practice suturing with. This was a natural progression to the models for wound cleaning.

Winning was a surprise to Laird and Tanaka but gratifying as well.

“We were surprised that we won, but we were really passionate about our project to begin with,” added Tanaka. “It’s just amazing that a lot of people also were interested in the pitch.”

When questioned about the cost factor in making these wound models, they said it actually would be under $40 per unit to make with a 3D printer.

The students who took part in the competition are hoping this is just the starting point, and they are able the ball rolling toward their pitch being used by the public and professionals down the road.

For the app-based pitch, there’s more work to be done, but Larsen, Voetglen and Clifton are confident it can become reality.

“There’s a lot of background coding that would need to happen,” Larsen said. “Also getting sponsored by grocery stores to try to ensure that it becomes an app that is affordable for the families that need it, but we’re confident it can happen.”

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Written by
Kevin Faigle

Kevin Faigle is Media Relations Specialist at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at kfaigle@augusta.edu.

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Avatar photo Written by Kevin Faigle

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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