Fashion/Tech Hackathon Teams Dominate LaunchNET’s Idea Olympics 2017 | e-Inside | Kent State University

Fashion/Tech Hackathon Teams Dominate LaunchNET’s Idea Olympics 2017

Entrepreneurial students pitch ideas in annual contest

On March 9, two teams that formed during the Fashion/Tech Hackathon in January took top spots at the annual LaunchNET Kent State Idea Olympics competition. “Abeona, the total immersion jacket” took first place, while “Hermes, the helmet with brains,” took second place. Two other ideas, Popstyle and the Bean Bike, tied for third place, while GIFTY (Gestalting Youth) won the Social Enterprise award. 

The team that developed Abeona, a tech-enhanced hiking jacket, is made up of Ryan Holland, graduate student in the School of Digital Sciences; Brian Steinhoff, senior in the School of Digital Sciences; Albert Morganti, senior electrical engineering student; Jessica Musto, senior in the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising; and Sarah Lynch, senior in the School of Fashion Design and Merchandising. The team also won the “Best Creation of a New Technology” award at the hackathon. The team won $1,500 and advances to the regional competition, IdeaLabs, where they will pitch their idea along with 10 other Northeast Ohio university teams at Lake Erie College on April 6.

“This win, coupled with the interest we received at the hackathon, has really boosted our confidence in the viability of our product and made it a possibility as a legitimate business venture in our eyes," says Abeona team member Holland. "We are excited to take on regionals and see just how far this jacket can take us.” 

Hermes, developed by Naser Al Madi, a doctoral student in the Department of Computer Science, is an active-sports helmet with embedded technological features to keep wearers safe and aware of their surroundings. Besides the $1,000 prize from LaunchNET, the idea also won “Best Advancement of an Existing Technology” at the hackathon. By adding tech features such as “ears,” which can measure wind, and incorporating an informational display, Hermes becomes more than just head protection, but also a tool that hang gliders can use to combat mental fatigue while riding. 

Because of the wealth of viable business ideas, the judges chose to award two third-place honors. Those winners were Obianuju Izuchukwu​, a sophomore majoring in fashion merchandising, with her pop-up thrift shop idea, Popstyle, and Colton Jones, a senior majoring in entrepreneurship, with his coffee bike vendor, the Bean Bike. Both won $500.

A $500 Social Enterprise award went to the team of Gestalting Youth (GIFTY). Team members Robert Whipple, a senior majoring in Pan-African studies, and Rachel Hardy, a junior majoring in fashion merchandising, are developing a program for inner-city youth using Gestalt psychological themes. 

The other finalists who pitched at the competition were the Pastimes by Evan Laisure, a senior majoring in visual communication design, and Mowgig by Richard Hildebrand, a graduate student pursuing his MBA. 

Judges were business owner Sharlene Ramos Chesnes; entrepreneurs Tessa Reeves and NeCole Cumberlander; and Stephen Roberts, director of technology commercialization and research finance at Kent State.

The Idea Olympics is an annual competition held by LaunchNET Kent State to assist Kent State students with innovative business ideas with funding, as well as to choose a deserving team to go forward to the regional IdeaLabs competition. IdeaLabs is hosted by the Entrepreneurship Education Consortium, a collective of 11 Northeast Ohio universities focused on creating experiential entrepreneurship activities to promote entre/intrapreneurship among college students.  

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