Launchpad Student Entrepreneurs Lift Off with Support from Latest Scholl Awards
Ten student ventures, selected from more than 90 applicants, receive funding to develop projects in healthcare, education, the arts and more
In the [email protected] program, Stevens students learn to develop ideas with commercial applications toward a goal of incorporating companies.
Under the guidance of Professor Mukund Iyengar, students design a prototype, research the market, devise ways to generate revenue and practice attracting investors.
“These are students who have a single-minded determination to excel and who are genuinely passionate about solving societal problems,” Iyengar said. “The tools for invention are so accessible that it is completely possible – and often makes more sense – for young entrepreneurs to solve problems directly, rather than joining a large corporation.”
Each year, the most advanced projects receive a Thomas H. Scholl Award for Launchpad, providing funding for initial costs such as purchasing software or registering website names. Scholl, a successful entrepreneur from the Washington, D.C. area, served as a Stevens trustee for nine years and also supports the Thomas H. Scholl Lecture by Visiting Entrepreneurs, part of the university's annual Innovation Expo.
“As a technological research university, innovation and entrepreneurship are our institutional priorities,” said Vice Provost David Zeng. “With Thomas Scholl’s generosity, we provide support for our students’ startup companies, a few of which are doing quite well. We are very thankful for philanthropic support for this program, without which these results would have been impossible.”
Innovations in healthcare, education, politics, the arts
This year, ten projects were selected for Scholl Awards from more than 90 submitted to the Launchpad program. At the end of the Spring 2022 semester, teams deemed to have made the most progress on their ventures will receive second, larger Scholl Awards, providing additional resources for students to continue developing ideas during the summer of 2022 and beyond, said Iyengar.
The award-winning ventures propose innovative solutions in fields ranging from prosthetics and education to diabetes management, social media, career development, politics and the arts.
Winning projects this year include A51, a virtual reality photo platform.
"People take photos to capture their experiences, but typically when these photos are revisited, the viewing process is uninteresting and does not compare to the original experience,” said founder Benjamin Hayden ’25. “The goal is for users to customize their galleries to reflect their own style and enhance the ways others can view. With virtual reality, users will be able to walk through galleries and obtain an experience similar to seeing photos displayed in a museum.”
DiAlerts is a personal assistant to help manage diabetes.
The main portion of the app is a calendar that allows users to input their daily plans and receive personalized reminders,” said founder Arianna Gehan ’24. “If you have a sports practice at night, you will be reminded to take a snack before so your blood sugar does not drop. If you have an important meeting, you will be reminded to check your blood sugar before starting. Additionally, users will be able to put in reminders such as to take medications or refill prescriptions.”
Tir-One provides a personalized virtual learning environment.
“We believe education is too rigid and encourages students to cram information rather than actually learn skills,” said Anthony Mauceri ’23, Harris Spahic ’23 and Devlin Stein ’24. “Tir gets to know you and your unique learning style. It then scours the internet to provide resources for you, simultaneously reinforcing positive learning habits to guarantee you master the material. Even if you get stuck, Tir can pair you with a study buddy who is there whenever you need them.”
Other projects winning 2021-2022 awards include:
Bucket, founded by Giangelo Dichio, a portal that invites people to discuss history;
Dynato, founded by Angel Clavijo, which produces prosthetics with sensors to help those with disabilities;
Ghyubepd, which helps job applicants prepare for technology-skills assessments and practice interviews;
Intrium, which uses an AI-powered search to help musicians produce original content while avoiding copyright infringements;
Jolk, a platform that incentivizes civil discourse on sensitive topics;
Podsee, founded by Burak Yesil, an interactive podcast service that helps users visualize complex subjects;
and Vvoy, founded by Ursala Odd-White and Carly Walker, which relieves isolation by encouraging people to explore their local environments.
Launchpad is a supportive community, say team members. Iyengar connects participants with industry professionals, and students in the program often also volunteer as peer mentors.
“There have been countless times when our projects have challenged us, or where we struggled to learn something new,” said Tir-One co-founder Mauceri. “Regardless of what time it is, someone is always available and willing to jump on a call to help us figure it out.”
“We identify problems in our life every day, and Launchpad has shown me that we have the power to tackle them,” added DiAlerts founder Gehan. “I have always loved to build things and found the idea of starting a company appealing, but I never knew where to start.
"The best advice I have received is to start small and to keep building. It has been great to connect with other motivated and passionate peers in the program, and the mentors are incredibly helpful.”
The Scholl Awards launched in 2020-21. Five of the inaugural recipient companies have since incorporated.
They include DroneHQ, a drone-based detection system with potential uses in disaster relief, agriculture, urban planning and home delivery; Gypsy, a portal for people who want to collaborate on real estate investing; Imagication, which enhances the educational journey by helping high school students find scholarships and career paths; Quae, a portal for people to connect and form political power; and SeraySkin, which uses artificial intelligence to diagnose skin imperfections and recommend products for purchase.