The business world faces plenty of challenges. Uncertainty exists about growth and prosperity. The inflation outlook is unstable. And consumer spending and consumer confidence around the world remain low.
Yet, if the Utah High School Entrepreneur Challenge is any predictor of the future, we have nothing to fear. This contest for young people, held in May at the Eccles Business School at the University of Utah, highlighted the innovation and impact of high school entrepreneurs who are turning good ideas into reality. These bright young entrepreneurs provide assurance that the future is in good hands.
This unique business-idea competition is open to students ages 14-18 across Utah. The competition gives young students a chance to showcase ideas and entrepreneurial talent. It is an outcome of the Legislature’s STEM initiative that was funded in 2013.
The event was hosted by U. of U. students from the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the U. The team included Mark Rasmussen, chairman; Tom Steinbrecher, associate chairman; Jordan Todesco, marketing and outreach director; Gates Lamb, technology and judges director; and Crystal Davis, events director. Their faculty adviser and the executive director of the Lassonde Institute is Troy D’Ambrosio.
Sixty-eight high school teams entered the competition, with 16 finalist teams showcasing their ideas to the judges and the public on May 14. They were competing to win $22,000 in prizes, including a $1,000 People’s Choice Award, and two $5,000 grand prizes.
The scope and diversity of the student ideas were amazing. One grand prize winner was EcoGo, an app designed to reduce the number of personal vehicles on Utah roads. EcoGo encourages users to use alternative transportation through social media competition. Features include gamification to allow users to earn coupons, discounts and gift cards in exchange for walking, biking, car-pooling and using public transit.
The other grand prize winner was Electro-Surgical Pouch, developed by students from the Jordan Academy for Technology and Careers and Bingham High School. It is an innovative surgical instrument that combines two existing instruments to reduce time, money, and risk of contamination.
The People’s Choice award went to Breathe Easy, developed by students from the Academy of Math, Engineering and Science in Salt Lake City. Breathe Easy will provide stylish masks crafted with interchangeable cartridges to filter air pollution, allowing consumers to stay safe from pollution no matter the air quality, and do so in style.
Other finalists were BackPal, a backpack insert that helps students keep their backpacks organized to hold more books and more easily find their school supplies while reducing back strain; Energy-Generating Stationary Bike that produces electricity while exercising; iCityCenter, an app that encourages recycling and helps reduce costs; Life Band, a sensor-equipped exercise headband allowing users to trace their movements with GPS, listen to music, and even test for concussions and alert emergency services if necessary.
Other finalists: LIT Signs are portable, programmable, event traffic signs that can provide specific communication to direct movement flow and give instructions. Microcade Systems is a full plug-and-play arcade system. Modular Magnetic Cables eliminate cable waste and minimize the volume of cables you use. Moto Design is an innovative electric motor design to reduce friction and increase efficiency. Invasive Mussel Management System provides unique codes at boat mussel check stations to track boats and prevent spread of invasive mussels.
Phone Check app will offer full mobile checkout at grocery stores by scanning items and paying via the app. Service in a Click! will help students find volunteering opportunities through an easy app interface and website. Strut Clothing Referral will match women to local and online stores that carry clothing complementing their body shapes. Teen Made aims to be the hub for teens to get their start in the business world and the place for the world to invest in teens.
A. Scott Anderson is CEO and president of Zions Bank.