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Big Idea finalists to pitch their ideas April 15

From beautifully designed wind turbines to cafeteria plates that help students eat healthier meals, the 12 finalists in this year's "Big IDEA" competition have dreamed up creative notions for products and services to make our lives better.

"I'd see people pile plates of food onto their trays that were completely unbalanced -- huge mountains of chicken nuggets, stacks of pizza and French fries, not a vegetable in sight," said Elisabeth Rosen '12 of her idea for a color-coded cafeteria plate called Nutricode that divides plates into sections for carbohydrates, fruits/veggies and proteins. "I realized that we could make balanced meals the standard by giving people a template they can fill in with foods of their choice."

Rosen and the other finalists will present their ideas to a panel of judges April 15 from 4 to 6 p.m. in the ballroom of the Statler Hotel. The contest is sponsored by Entrepreneurship@Cornell, and the finals are part of E@C's "Celebration" two-day conference. Paulette Hricko, M.B.A. '11, an eLab fellow, is coordinating this year's contest for Entrepreneurship@Cornell.

In December 111 ideas were submitted; the field was whittled to 25 semifinalists and then 12 finalists, who are given experienced entrepreneurs or business professionals as mentors to help students develop a three-minute pitch for the April 15 finals.

Audience members will be able to vote for their favorite idea during the presentations; winners are chosen by a combination of judge and audience votes. A "People's Choice" award is also given to the idea that earns the most online votes at http://entrepreneurship.cornell.edu/BigIdea/.

One idea, for example, is "WhatNext," developed by Rocky Li, Alexandra Ruby and Phoebe Yu, all Class of '12, which would aggregate entertainment options into a mobile phone and Web app to allow people to see the options for spending the rest of their day. It would come in handy, they say, if you're in a city for a day without plans and want to find a list of what's going on.

Other students have focused on ideas to help solve health and environmental problems. Lauren Braun '11, for example, conceived of the AlmaSana bracelet, which would help mothers in developing countries remember the dates of their children's vaccination appointments.

Zach Gould '11 has designed various iterations of wind turbines from a sculptural perspective.

"There is increasing concern over global warming and over our vanishing resource of fossil fuels, yet no one has come up with a solution that inspires people enough to make a change," Gould said. With his sculptures "wind power becomes something beautiful, something captivating, something mesmerizing."

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Joe Schwartz