Ideas for a “wired” law enforcement badge and an online ordering platform have both received funding as the winners of Rensselaer’s Class of ’51 Entrepreneurship Fund, established to help transform student ideas into sustainable ventures.
One of Rensselaer’s most active, generous, and supportive alumni groups, the Class of ’51 sponsors an annual competition to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to pursue early development of entrepreneurial ideas.
Grants of up to $5,000 are awarded each year to winning individuals or teams. This year a $2,000 runner-up prize also was awarded.
Mechanical engineering majors Sara DiNovo ’08 and Louis Martinelli ’08 were awarded $5,000 for their invention, Smart Badge. A next-generation law enforcement badge that incorporates a variety of electronic safety features, including a camera, global positioning chip, and an officer’s radio, Smart Badge incorporates existing technologies into a wearable network.
Parul Raj Lodha, a graduate student in the Lally School of Management & Technology, was awarded $2,000 for his idea to create an online platform that allows strangers to group together for the purpose of placing bulk Internet orders. Called GroupCheckout.com, the Web site would operate on the assumption that sellers would offer competitive discounts for guaranteed large orders for a single product. The platform and associated rules represent “an ingenious and innovative use of technology,” according to Rob Chernow, vice provost for entrepreneurship at Rensselaer and head of the Class of ’51 Scholarship Fund competition.
“In addition to receiving funding, the competition winners will also receive help from the Entrepreneur Support Committee, which includes faculty, alumni, and resources from Rensselaer’s Incubator Center, Office of Technology Commercialization, and the Severino Center,” says Chernow. “This group is an invaluable resource, and can provide experienced, knowledgeable guidance and counsel to foster the further development of Smart Badge and GroupCheckout.com from the idea phase to the marketplace.”
To qualify for the Class of ’51 Entrepreneurship Fund, entrants must articulate a clear statement of the opportunity and resulting ideas with supporting data; describe how their solution addresses a problem; provide enough details to demonstrate that the solution is feasible and sustainable; and include diagrams and sketches to illustrate their points.
The annual competition is judged by Chernow, with assistance from a committee of faculty members, graduate students, researchers, and alumni.
This is one of three endowed funds established in 2000 by the Class of ’51 in honor of their 50th Reunion. The other funds support students who
transfer into Rensselaer in their junior year, and faculty for outstanding teaching and for developing new educational technologies.
“This commitment on the part of the Class of ’51 is an outstanding example of the collective foresight of a dedicated group of alumni, and Rensselaer is grateful for their generosity toward future generations of students and faculty,” says Donald Fry, Rensselaer’s vice president for institute advancement.
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