By Meg McCaffrey
Student teams that designed an advanced health/ fitness monitor and a climate-controlled hat for cancer patients were the grand prizewinners of Fairfield University’s 2nd annual Business Plan Competition. A total of $20,000 was awarded at a standing-room only gala final pitch session.
The “SenseFit” and “inCognito” teams – made up of students from the Dolan School of Business and the School of Engineering – took home $10,000 and $5,000 in start-up funds respectively, in the Venture and Social Enterprise categories. They had competed against 11 other student teams who entered the semi-finals with business plans populated by 35 students from across campus. Faculty judges in the semi-finals (held in late March) determined the 6 finalists, 4 in the Venture Track category, and 2 in the social track.
Finals judges were business leaders, entrepreneurs and faculty. Open to students university-wide, the eight-month competition is a part of the Dolan School’s growing Entrepreneurship Program and speaks to the widespread interest among students in becoming business owners or entrepreneurs. “This event is an example of how Fairfield University integrates students across campus,” said Dr. Don Gibson, dean of the Dolan School of Business, “in these winning projects, our business students brought their creative marketing and finance ideas to the technical ideas of engineering students. What a great combination!”
Working with electrical engineering major Darren Mondezie ’14, business student Alex Boothe ’16, helped come up with the idea for inCognito Climate Controlled Hats after a fight with cancer. He’s now cancer free. “When you are in treatment, your body temperature can really fluctuate,’ said Boothe, a freshman majoring in marketing and management. “These hats are personal heating and cooling systems that can keep you warm or cool – whatever you want.”
Fusing together their business and technical acumen, the “inCognito” team continues to work on a prototype of the $27 hat. They envision it as a big draw for cancer hospital gift shops, cancer organizations and even Fairfield University, complete with a Stag logo on it. James Dugan ’85 served as their mentor.
“This is one milestone in our journey to fighting pediatric cancer, and people can expect to see us more in the near future,” said Mondezie, of Stratford, Conn.
The “SenseFit” team included three engineering students who play for Fairfield University varsity and club teams. “We wanted to combine the skills we’ve learned in engineering with our passion for sports,” said Elizabeth Cortez ’13, who is captain of the women’s rugby team and a mechanical engineering major. She was part of a group that designed a wristwatch-type device that uses compact, wireless sensors to read and record heart rate, pulse ox, and muscle activity using conventional Bluetooth technology and an easy to use smartphone application. Estimated to cost about $250, it’s targeted for everyone from NCAA athletes in training to baby boomers trying to stay fit to active senior citizens. The team also included Nicole Stark ’13, a mechanical engineering major; Stephanie Cruz ’13, a software engineering major; and Bernardo Navarro ’14, an accounting and economics major.
As a member of the volleyball team, Cruz knows a lot about how teamwork and countless hours of practice can pay off. “I believe that even if we did not win a monetary award, this was a meaningful experience for me that will help me in my future career,” said Cruz, who added she was grateful to mentors Mark Willkehr, an entrepreneur, and Associate Professor Dr. Shahrokh Etemad, associate professor and chair of mechanical engineering.
The competition was made possible by the generous donations of Mary Lincoln Campbell, ’72; Joseph Bronson, ’70; Hugh Davis, ’95; and Chris Stephens. Co-chairing the competition were Dolan School faculty members Drs. Chris Huntley and Mukesh Sud.
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