Solving Parking Problems is Winning Idea
Have you ever experienced frustration while trying to find a parking spot on campus? Five business school students did, and last fall they pitched their solutions in the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship’s 2023 The Idea Pitch competition and won first place.
The competition is hosted by the college that helps Kent State students develop startup companies and pitch business ideas to a panel of executive judges to win cash prizes.
Using academics to spark meaningful discovery, Nisha Chaurasia, Sofiya Ibrayeva, Shefali Gupta, Lokesh Jetangi and Ajeet Kumar Sandela, all graduate students in the Business Analytics program, won first place in the Fall 2023 Idea Pitch.
The team said it was a spontaneous decision, but since they were already working on the project for their Advanced Machine Learning class, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to showcase this project and practice their pitching skills.
“In terms of pitching and presenting, I've got a bit of background from my days in professional marketing. I've overseen presenting marketing reports, so that's not entirely new to me,” Gupta said. “Now, Sophia and Nisha, they're on a whole other level. Their presentation skills are top-notch, and it was incredible how they absolutely nailed pitching our idea. Teamwork makes the dream work.”
Team members said their idea was inspired by a group brainstorming session in the library while working on their final Advanced Machine Learning project that required them to develop a model. As they bounced around ideas, they decided to explore Kent State to find a project that could benefit students and the community.
During their discussions, the frustration of being late due to the difficulty in finding parking spots became a focal point. The team said they often had to park their cars far from their destination.
When they entered the parking lot, they noticed that there were available spots but not obvious. This realization led them to conceptualize a model that could recognize available and unavailable parking spaces in real time. The goal was to create a solution that could be navigated through an app, helping users find available parking spaces more efficiently. And thus, the Mark & Park idea was born.
“The collaborative spirit at Kent State, along with the shared experiences of fellow students, shaped the Mark & Park project,” Gupta said. “Late-night library sessions turned into brainstorming sessions, fueled by the collective frustration we all felt. The aim was to create a solution that addresses a real issue faced by students daily.”
The Mark & Park app is a mobile application where users can discover available parking spaces in the area in real time, compare pricing and receive step-by-step navigation to a preferable spot.
“The encouraging environment and the knowledge we received during our classes created the perfect conditions for our own ideas to take shape,” Ibrayeva said. “Professors' assistance, along with exciting challenges in our Advanced Machine Learning class, pushed us to think creatively and work so much harder.”
Each team member brought their own strengths and weaknesses to the competition.
Ibrayeva did her undergrad in Kazakhstan, and when she decided that she wanted to pursue a master's in business analytics, Kent State was her No. 1 choice. She said the program offers students everything they need to succeed in the future. She said the curriculum is diverse, offering all the necessary skills.
“I was active in college during my bachelor’s degree. I have presented at a couple of business conferences, but that experience was much more relaxing since it was in my native language and the scale of it wasn’t that big,” Ibrayeva said. “This Idea Pitch competition was an entirely different and nerve-wracking experience. Presenting in a new language and format added an extra layer of challenge, but we all saw it as an opportunity for growth and learning.
Upon graduation, Ibrayeva plans to pursue a career in data science or finance analytics. Before joining the master's program, she was working as a tax consultant in Kazakhstan. However, her passion for data science and business analytics has motivated her to shift my career focus.
“I am excited to step into this new field and implement all of the knowledge I have gathered during this program,” Ibrayeva said.
Gupta is also aiming for a career in data science or data analytics. Currently, she is working as a pension data analyst at Reason Foundation, a non-profit organization. Post-graduation, her goal is to secure a position where she can leverage her coding skills and contribute to building exciting programs.
Gupta completed her undergrad in India. She chose Kent State for her master's because of the robust program. She said the curriculum covers a wide range of topics, from machine learning and deep learning to working with tools. The inclusion of database concepts made it an easy choice for her.
“I'm excited about the opportunities that lie ahead in the field of data analysis,” Gupta said.