Students Score High with the Idea Lab

Capstone Engineering students, seniors in the Lorain County JVS Project Lead the Way Engineering program, recently took part in the Lorain County Community College NEO LaunchNET ideaLabs Business Competition. A team of four students that consisted of Tyler Hopkins (Amherst), Caleb Hewlett (Firelands), Victor Ellis (Amherst) and Benjamin Brogan (Amherst) took 2nd place, and collected a five hundred dollar prize. These students will advance to the regional competition at Baldwin Wallace University on the evening of April 4.

According to Janice Lapina, NEO LaunchNET Director, the ideaLabs competition is for college students, and the fact the JVS Project Lead the Way students are dually enrolled, this qualified them for the competition.

For the competition, the students were given seven minutes to pitch their idea, ‘shark tank’ style, and the judges were given three minutes to ask questions. “This competition gives the students real world presentation experience,” shared Matthew Poyle, NEO LauchNET Program Coordinator.

Ben Brogan, team captain, explained the process his team went through for the competition. “First we had to find a problem and come up with a solution. The problem we decided to focus on was the elderly falling, especially as they tried to climb a flight of stairs.”

The team found a solution to this problem by revamping the design of a basic walker. “We are making the front two legs of a walker retractable, so that it keeps the walker level with the stairs. In our studies throughout this process, we learned that it is crucial for elderly people to continue to be able to walk up and down stairs, as there is a direct correlation to the ability to do this and life expectancy,” explained Brogan.

Completing all of the research for the project was just the beginning. The students then brought their knowledge together, and pitched the idea to an engineering panel for feedback. “Being able to present to the engineer group was really helpful because they were able to give us ideas on where to improve on the designs and functionality,” shared Victor Ellis.

According to Tyler Hopkins, the actual competition was not as nerve wracking as he thought it might be. “Because we had the opportunity to present to the engineering group, we were then able to redo some parts of our presentation, and it also made us better at presenting as a group.”

The competition was focused on entrepreneurship and the students had to show not only their idea, but statistics, who could invest in them, and who they could partner with to bring their idea to life.

Poyle explained who is moving on to the next level of the competition. “From here, we are taking our first and second place teams to the regional competition to compete again nine other schools, for a total of twenty teams, to compete for a chance to win $5000.

The JVS students are doing something no other high school students have done before. “This group of young men will be the first group of high school students to ever present at the regional competition,” shared Lapina.

Now the nerves are setting in for this team of students. “We have less than one month to get this thing built, and right now we are working on a small scale prototype,” said Ellis.

Brian Iselin, JVS Project Lead the Way Engineering Instructor, explained what his students will have to do in the next level of the competition. “The regional competition is set in a trade show style format, where the judges walk around the trade show and the students will have to present their pitch over and over again.”

Hopkins sees this style of competition as a positive. “I like that we don’t have to get in front of a big group of people this time and if we miss something during one pitch, we get the opportunity to correct that with the next person we talk to.”

Ellis agreed. “This time it will be more conversational, so it can go both ways with dialogue, instead of it being more one sided. People will be able to ask questions while we are explaining things and I think that will be a benefit.”

NEO LaunchNET, which is sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation at Lorain County Community College, is a free business service to any LCCC student, facility, and alumni that will provide assistance with entrepreneurial needs. NEO LaunchNET at LCCC opened its doors to students in November 2015.