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S.O.S. Challenge celebrates 22 student winners sharing $25K prize purse

Twenty-two students shared in prize money from the 2021 TechPoint Summer Opportunities for Skills (S.O.S. Challenge) but competition organizers say every participant came out a winner.

“It’s wonderful seeing how this crazy idea born out of a crisis just a year ago has turned into a powerful platform for pre-internship students to develop valuable skills, taste a startup experience, expand their networks, and demonstrate their capabilities and character,” said Mike Langellier, CEO of Techpoint.

The Challenge was created in 2020 to help students who lost their planned summer internships when the pandemic struck. It proved so popular, TechPoint brought it back. Coaches, organizers and others involved were again impressed with the level of commitment and energy students brought to the six-week, virtual competition.

This year, Lou Lenzi, a Professor of Practice at the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI and Jonathan Huer, EdD, Chief Learning Officer at Eleven Fifty Academy, developed and facilitated the business and technical curriculum respectively alongside the team at Elevate Ventures.

“The SOS Challenge may be one of the best side effects of the pandemic. We were so pleased to be part of the team that created such an engaging, meaningful experience for college students to replace lost internships,” Jonathan said. “We were impressed with how each of the teams met real world challenges with real world solutions. It’s a terrific way to encourage more graduates to remain here in Indiana.”

In addition to Purdue and Purdue-Fort Wayne’s five student winners, there were multiple winners from IUPUI, Indiana University, Wabash College, Trine University, Eleven Fifty Academy and The Ohio State University.

In all, 22 students from a dozen universities and colleges shared in the $25,000 prize purse and also won an opportunity to participate in Elevate Ventures’ Fall 2021 Regional Nexus Pitch Competition.  Each of the 170 participants who successfully completed the S.O.S. Challenge received a $500 stipend.

Team 4, which won in the Sports & Entertainment category, for its Tech Guide, has been invited to join a committee working on the January 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship.

Students were divided into 39 teams with 81 coaches from 42 Indianapolis area tech companies. They were asked to devise a solution to current challenges in five categories and build a portfolio worthy project. Each team presented a final product, mirroring last year’s 100 percent completion rate.

Keegan Briskey, an Informatics major at IUPUI and member of Healthcare – Team 2, said the experience helped him develop communication and collaboration skills that will be invaluable in the future.

“I speak for myself and others when I say that I am grateful for the time that I have spent working on my project, and learning so much about our challenges,” he said. “I know that I will carry the skills I have gained during the last six weeks wherever I go and to all that I do.”

Authenticx CEO Amy Brown, TechPoint’s 2020 Rising Entrepreneur of the Year, served as keynote speaker and spot advisor to the winning teams as they outlined their projects. Brown built her company from scratch, working with tech experts to bring to life her idea of improving communications between health care companies and patients by analyzing and activating customer interaction data at scale.

“It’s really wonderful to see the energy and ideas coming from these young entrepreneurs and future leaders,” Brown said. “It’s invigorating to see the next crop of great ideas starting to grow.”

Landon Young, executive director, University Initiatives and an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Elevate Ventures, which supports startups, advised the teams on next steps for bringing their projects to market. He congratulated the students on surprising the venture capital firm with their ideas and encouraged them to apply for the next Elevate Ventures pitch competition, where they could earn up to $80,000 in seed capital. “The fact that you found markets we hadn’t heard of is awesome,” he said.

TechPoint S.O.S. Challenge Winners:

Education category: Team 8 created an app calledLighthouse to bridge gaps in communication and learning loss by tracking student data that provides warnings and insights when a student seems to be experiencing learning loss or other struggles. The app includes a chat feature to enable easy communication between students and instructors.

Team 8 Members: Mary Stempky, Ball State University; Dillon Valenti, Purdue University-Fort Wayne; Savreen Kaur and Chris Cardoza, IUPUI; and Logan Franklin, Vincennes University. Coaches: Katie Baird, Codelicious and Ron Fleetwood, Cummins Inc.

Healthcare category: Team 2 used blockchain technology to create a universal medical identification called UnID (pronounced “unity”) that allows users to sync their information across multiple providers and control who has access to what. The app can securely link patient healthcare data to a centralized source. Users can access integrated sharing controls to choose what information organizations can access from their healthcare portfolio.

Team 2 Members: Keegan Briskey, IUPUI; Evan Burge, Wabash College; Isaac Solloway, Indiana University; Upasana Shrestha, Trine University; and Sydney Sauer, The Ohio State University. Coaches: Luis Kuae and Xin Yao, Cummins, Inc.

Sports & Entertainment category: Team 4 created Tech Guide, a navigation tool for the 500,000 attendees of the January 2022 College Playoffs in Indianapolis. TechGuide users will be able to use all the functionality of a regular map app, but with specific information relevant to the event and their own preferences, using crowdsourced data to produce real time information such as wait times, parking lot availability, crowd size and even restaurants, bars or other venues that offer heaters to keep folks warm as they gather or wait outside.

Team 4 Members: Tyler Metheny, Wabash College; Ashleigh Sincebaugh, Indiana University; Erik Petersen, Valparaiso University; Matthew Hartel, The Ohio State University. Coaches: Tim Laplante, OpenText and Mike Seidle, PivotCX.

Indiana Agriculture category: Team 7 created the Backyard app, which it calls  “the Etsy of Produce.” It gives the average gardener a platform to show off their skills while giving small-town farmers an audience to sell their excess vegetable produce.

Team 7 Members: Lindsay Newell and Ginger Alford, Eleven Fifty Academy; Prajith Narendran, Indiana University; and Allen Zheng, Purdue University. Coaches: Mike Horrocks, Baker Hill and Nicholas Osborn, AES Clean Energy.

Sustainable Energy category: Team 1 created Battery Overflow, a website that addresses issues with usage, storage and proper disposal/recycling of used electric vehicle batteries.

Team 1 Members: Carl Meyer, Kevin Morton and Sasha Jocius, Purdue University; and Michael High, Wabash College. Coaches: Mitchell Turnbow, MCA Connect and Saroja Bharath, Cummins, Inc.

Visit and bookmark the S.O.S. Challenge page for more information and to be notified of future opportunities to participate in the challenge.


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