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UMass women’s basketball suffers disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure at Mullins Center Thursday -

January 19, 2017

REPORT: Tom Masella out as defensive coordinator for UMass football -

January 19, 2017

Zach Lewis, bench carry UMass men’s basketball in win over St. Joe’s -

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UMass women’s basketball handles Duquesne at home -

January 16, 2017

UMass men’s basketball’s late comeback falls short after blowing 15-point first-half lead -

January 15, 2017

UMass hockey outlasted at home against No. 6 UMass Lowell -

January 14, 2017

Hailey Leidel hits second buzzer beater of the season to give UMass women’s basketball win over Davidson -

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UMass football hosts Maine at Fenway Park in 2017 -

January 12, 2017

UMass men’s basketball snaps losing streak and upsets Dayton Wednesday night at Mullins Center -

January 11, 2017

UMass women’s track and field takes second at Dartmouth Relays -

January 10, 2017

UMass hockey falls to No. 5 Boston University at Frozen Fenway -

January 8, 2017

UMass professor to make third appearance on ‘Jeopardy!’ -

January 8, 2017

UMass women’s basketball suffers brutal loss on road against Saint Joseph’s -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops thirds straight, falls to VCU 81-64 -

January 7, 2017

UMass men’s basketball drops tightly-contested conference matchup against George Mason Wednesday night -

January 4, 2017

Late-game defense preserves UMass women’s basketball’s win against rival Rhode Island -

January 4, 2017

AIC shuts out UMass hockey 3-0 at Mullins Center -

January 4, 2017

UMass professor to appear as contestant on ‘Jeopardy!’ Thursday night -

January 4, 2017

Penalties plague UMass hockey in Mariucci Classic championship game -

January 2, 2017

UMass men’s basketball falls in A-10 opener to St. Bonaventure and its veteran backcourt -

December 30, 2016

Student entrepreneurs compete for cash prizes to build their ideas

Cade Belisle/Collegian

Students, alumni and entrepreneurs gathered last night in the University of Massachusetts Computer Science Building for the UMass Innovation Challenge Minute pitch.

A total of 11 teams of aspiring entrepreneurs were given 60 seconds to pitch their innovation idea without the use of slides, prototypes or written business plans to an audience and panel of five judges.

Immediately after their 60-second pitch each team participated in a three-minute question and answer session with the judges.

The program’s goal was to educate students in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, according to the UMass Amherst Innovation Challenge website. The competition is designed to help students and young alumni who want to pursue a business idea, develop a technology into a marketable product, or have a new approach to a difficult problem or opportunity.

Heather Demers, the Director of The Innovation Challenge was front and center greeting students and audience members as they arrived.

“This is somewhat of an introduction to the initial Innovation Challenge that takes place during the fall semester,” said Demers.  “Students are given the chance to talk about their idea and are provided constructive criticism. They are able to meet and network with mentors, which will hopefully better prepare them for The Innovation Challenge in the fall. This is a chance for the students to get their feet wet.”

Michael F. Malone, a Ronnie and Eugene Isenberg Distinguished Professor and Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement began the event by spotlighting the distinguished group of judges as well as informing the audience of the official rules of the challenge.

Malone is one of the founding developers of The Innovation Challenge program.

“We started The Innovation Challenge seven years ago through The Isenberg School of Management,” said Malone. “Everything was done through fundraising and all the prize money comes directly from private sponsors.”

Malone has never participated in a challenge as a judge, stating that “it would be a conflict of interest.” He said he wants to save that opportunity for the program’s sponsors and previous Innovation Challenge winners.

Among last night’s judges was Brian Mullen, a 2009 UMass alumnus and 2008 Innovation Challenge $50,000 grand prize winner.

“I lost the first year in 2008, but took advantage of all the mentorship and support I received through the program and came back the following year and won,” said Mullen.

Mark Lester of Provenance Venture Partners, LLC has been a sponsor of the Innovation Challenge program since it first began back in 2004. He also served on the judges panel last night asking students tough questions such as “how will you market your product and who is your target audience?” and “how will your product generate revenue?”

In addition to being a sponsor and judge for the Innovation Challenge, Lester also serves as a mentor to student participants.

“The students are excited by taking what they learn and doing something with it,” said Lester. “Everyone across the board is encouraged to keep going through mentorship and the advice they receive.”

After all 11 teams delivered their minute pitch, they were asked to leave the room while the judges deliberated. The Minute Pitch participants were eligible to win a first place prize of $1,000, second place prize of $750, or third place prize of $500. In addition to the three placement prizes, participants were also eligible to win a $250 award based on audience votes.

Audience members were provided with three ways to vote for their favorite participant through the use of their laptops or mobile devices. They had the option of either texting the name of their favorite presenter to a specified number, tweeting @poll followed by the presenter’s names on Twitter, or via the Internet on their laptops or smartphones at pollev.com.

Students enjoyed pizza and wings as they waited for the winners to be announced. UMass junior, marketing major and co-founder of Khross clothing and life style brand, Vincent Morano was one of the challenge participants waiting on the announcement of the winners.

When asked what was the hardest part of the Minute Pitch Morano said,

“The hardest part was the public speaking. I always have a hard time with public speaking no matter how many times I do it,”

In first place was Marcelia Muehlke, Management (MBA) and Public Policy & Administration (MPPA) candidate, with her presentation on Joya Bride, a company she hopes to develop that will produce fair-trade wedding gowns.

The second place prize was awarded to Rance Rodrigues, Electrical and Computer Engineering PhD candidate for his presentation on Campus Convenience.

“It’s a smarter craigslist. Students can find housing, books, even hiking buddies right in their area,” said Rodrigues. “It’s convenient because it only notifies individuals of post specifically targeted to their needs.”

The winners of the third place prize as well as the audience-choice were senior civil engineering major Christopher Jones and senior environmental science and natural resource economics major Adrienne Wickham-Gobert for their presentation on Carbon Scrubbers.

Both students hope to produce an aftermarket automotive device that can be purchased at most automotive stores and attached to individual vehicles to help prevent carbon emissions that pollute the environment.

Students who walked away from the challenge without a cash prize did not walk away empty handed. They had the opportunity to share their ideas and network with professionals who can help prepare them for the official Innovation Challenge in the fall. For those students who did walk away with cash prizes they are encouraged to put that money into the development and progression of their ideas.

Harmonie Charland can be reached at hjeancha@student.umass.edu.

 

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