A group at Yale has been working for nearly a decade to turn students' ideas into marketable business concepts.
The Yale Entrepreneurial Society's annual innovation summit brings together teams of students, faculty, and other collaborators to pitch their business plans to industry and academic judges.
Participants enter with the hopes of walking away with a portion of the $50,000 prize. The presentations arenâ€™t merely business training exercises. They are fully-realized business proposals, many of which have patents and have already secured a good deal of funding.
The CHWired team won in the Social Entrepreneurship category. Team member Anup Patel says their idea is to develop a Wi-Fi network for rural community health workers.
"If a community health health worker encounters a rash that is unable to be treated, with our technology of CHWired, they can actually communicate by taking a picture with their PDA of the rash, transmit it to a doctor who will tell them that, yes, this is not a diaper rash. This is a type of yeast infection."
Another team, Chrome Decor, hopes to market electrochromic technology, a specially designed window covering that controls the amount of light allowed into a room. With the turn of a dial, the window can progress from opaque to transparent.
Gilman Callsen, the team's founding member, recalls the "ah-ha!" moment for the idea:
"At the end of last year, after finals, I was driving home, very tired, and in the bus going to the airport, the sun was coming through and hitting my eyes, and all i wanted to do was sleep, and all I couldn't do was sleep because of the sun. So I thought how neat it would be to be able to darken down the window, go to sleep, and then when I wanted to look out it would turn transparent again."
Chrome Decor was one of 16 teams to make it to the final leg of the competition. Although they didn't win, Callson says the second-place finish gives them $8,000 and earns them credibility to pursue additional funding.
The top for-profit winner was jetEye Technologies. The team won the $12,000 first-place prize for their device that monitors the health of jet airplane turbines. The invention captured the attention of the judges for its broad patent protection and interest from the military.
Next year, the Yale Entrepreneurial Society hopes to increase the cash prize to $100,000 in an effort to be more competitive with similar university organizations.