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Innovative bike design, rape alert system take top awards in Big Idea Competition

A bicycle design that would automatically shift through gears for recreational and commuting bikers was named the best business enterprise idea, and a rape alert device that would contact police with a precise GPS location received top honors in the social enterprise category in the second undergraduate Big Idea Competition, April 17.

More than 100 entries from undergrads were whittled down to 12 finalists -- six in business enterprise and six in social enterprise -- before Friday's finals, in which entrants gave three-minute pitches. Winners were decided based on scores from judges and the audience. A People's Choice Award was also given for the idea that received the most online votes.

This year's competition, sponsored by Entrepreneurship@Cornell, Student Agencies Inc. and the eLab undergraduate business accelerator, drew more than 250 people to the final presentations, as part of Entrepreneurship@Cornell's Celebration 2009.

"The presentations were unbelievably well done," said Sharon Dauk, MBA '89, owner of Sharon Dauk Coaching and one of the judges. "Many of them went well beyond an idea and are well on their way to turning this into a business plan."

"We have actually had people approach us already to offer funding," said Emily Forsythe '09, who won with Emily Turner '09 for the rape alert system. The two, who said they both have had friends who have been attacked, plan to move forward with the business after graduation.

Their social enterprise track was a successful addition to the competition, said John Jaquette, director of Entrepreneurship@Cornell: "It gave a new group of students the opportunity to give concrete expression to their ideas for social change," he said.

Josh Groleau '11 was the other big winner in the business enterprise track for his bicycle design.

The finalists tried many tactics to win over judges during the finals.

Constanza Ontaneda '09 and Angeline Stuma '09, whose company offers premium clothing from Peru for professional women, brought women in their target age range, modeling some of the clothing they would sell. Antonio Cardona '09 and Matt Malleo '09, whose company Artist Generation would provide a Web site to link amateur musicians with agents, record labels and clubs, enlisted the help of three amateur musicians to sing a few lines about how the site would help them.

Kevin Golvin '12 illustrated his project to capture energy in outer space using carbon nanotubes and send it to Earth with an animated computer presentation.

Others used humor.

When a judge asked how the alarm-clock pillow invention would help students wake up if they simply tossed it across the room when it started going off, Francois van Vliet '09 replied, "The Wake Well Pillow will make you want to hug your pillow instead of throwing it off your bed."

The prizes -- $2,500 prize for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500 for third -- were provided for the business ideas by the Vijay (M.Eng. '75) and Sita Vashee Promising Entrepreneur Award Endowment Fund; other prizes were provided by additional endowments and by Entrepreneurship@Cornell.

Kathy Hovis is a writer and editor for Entrepreneurship@Cornell.

And the winners at Entrepreneurship@Cornell's Celebration 2009 are ...

Big Idea Competition

Business Enterprise

1st place ($2,500 prize): Josh Groleau '11, CentriPEDAL Cycle Co.

2nd place ($1,000 prize): Ken Colwell '09, Hydrogen Farming

3rd place ($500 prize): Aniq Rahman '09, Govind Nagubandi '09, Jaydev Mahadevan '09 and Bobby Miller '08, HireCube

Social Enterprise

1st place ($2,500 prize): Emily Forsythe '09 and Emily Turner '09, RapeAlert

2nd place ($1,000 prize): Constanza Ontaneda '09 and Angeline Stuma '09, Bernales & Goretti

3rd place ($500 prize): Jefferson King '09, YOUNG -- Liberia

People's Choice award

Ken Colwell '09, Hydrogen Farming

Bottled Water Competition

The Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at the School of Hotel Administration hosted its "Bottled Water Competition," urging students to come up with solutions to the environmental problems associated with the increasing consumption of bottled water.

Winners in that competition were:

1st place: Jessica Rosman, MBA '09, and Tamar Shen, MBA '10

2nd place: Rahkeem Morris '10, Thomas Ellingham '10 and Kimberley Schroder '09

3rd place: Kelly Chess '11, Mariko Fujio-White '12, Clarie Miziolek '09, Amanda Pinto '11 and Jessica Zhang '10


The Johnson School's Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise sponsored a portfolio pitch competition that called for students across the country to propose and defend a mock portfolio of sustainable investments worth $100,000.

Winners in that contest were:

1st place: Brian Bishop, Natasha Tuck, Jennifer Cohn and Oliver Dameron, Presidio School of Management

2nd place: Connor Fusselman, Donald McGregor, Sidhant Ganeriwalla and Hana Abbas, University of Virginia

3rd place: Joshua Fattor, Amanda Watterson, Jessica Ballis and Juliana Berk-Krauss, Cornell

4th place: Evan Kontras, Dickinson College

Media Contact

Nicola Pytell