Kick-Off: The 2017 Student Day Business Model Competition

March 28, 2017

Five engineering teams from schools across the country have been selected to represent the United States at the 2017 Global Grand Challenges Summit Student Day Competition.

11 teams of undergraduate students from Cleveland State University, North Carolina State University, University of Denver, New York Institute of Technology, Arizona State University, The Pennsylvania State University, New Mexico Tech, UC San Diego, University of North Dakota, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Southern California traveled to Washington, DC to compete in the preliminary nomination round of the 2017 Student Day Business Plan Competition.

The five winning teams and their business proposals were: North Carolina State (Medicom); The Pennsylvania State University (Morwater); University of California, San Diego (Worldcare Technologies); University of Denver (Wanderlift); and the University of Southern California (Intram).

Each team was composed of undergraduate engineering students who developed and presented a business plan for a start-up based on an idea/concept related to the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges for Engineering.  The NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering are a set of 14 engineering challenges identified through initiatives such as the White House Strategy for American Innovation, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering, and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, that include complex yet critical goals such as engineering better medicines, making solar energy cost-competitive with coal, securing cyberspace, and advancing personalized learning tools to deliver better education to more individuals.

Each team was provided with training from the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps), which links university engineering with the marketplace. In this program, students learned how to conduct, gather, and analyze customer discovery interviews, and had to interview at least 25 potential customers. They also learned how to modify and test business model hypotheses in response to interviews.  The students presented their models in the selection competition held at the National Academy of Sciences in the nation's capital in front of a panel of judges. 

The proposals covered a wide range of engineering challenges, from improving urban infrastructure with the initiation of long-distance ride-sharing apps to enhancing virtual reality with customizable artificial intelligence assistants.  Each team had 7 minutes to present their model and had 6 minutes to complete a Q & A session with the panel of judges.  5 of the 11 teams were chosen to compete in the Student Day competition against 5 teams from London and 5 teams from Beijing on the first day of the 2017 Global Grand Challenges Summit on July 18th.

The panel of judges included Leo Brooks of Boeing, Jenna Carpenter of Campbell University, Dona Dickinson of Northrop Grumman, Syd Ulvick of Lockheed Martin, and Barbara Kornyle of Shell, along with Dr. Andrea Belz, Director of the NSF I-Corps Los Angeles Node; she is helping prepare students from the U.S., United Kingdom, and China for the final competition.  The panel asked each team tough questions regarding their proposals, addressing various ethics and liability concerns, the economic history of the issues, and the practicality of the products.

The Student Day competition is dedicated to promoting engineering along with social entrepreneurship and innovations for our world, says Yannis C. Yortsos, University of Southern California Viterbi Dean of Engineering and US Student Day organizing committee lead.

The five winning U.S. teams will come together again to Washington, D.C. during the 2017 Global Grand Challenges Summit to pitch their business models against the 10 other groups from the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Engineering for monetary prizes.  USC is providing training to the all teams competing at the Summit.