Student innovators claim $12,000 in BYU competition

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Myron Jones and Tom Peterson present the grand prize $5,000 award to Mark Nielson of Reform Building Systems for the 2013 Student Innovator of the Year Competition
Myron Jones (left) and Tom Peterson (right) present the $5,000 grand prize to Mark Nielson of Reform Building Systems for the 2013 Student Innovator of the Year Competition. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)

Hundreds gathered in the Varsity Theater on campus Thursday at the final event for the annual Student Innovator of the Year competition. Eight finalists took the stage to present their innovations, with four finalists claiming portions of the $12,000 in prize money.

RēForm Building Systems, led by entrepreneur MBA student Mark Nielson, claimed first place and title of “Student Innovator of the Year” for an energy-efficient concrete forming system. The unique system, pre-constructed for builders, provides integrated rebar and channels for cabling and plumbing along with built-in insulation and lego-style structure. This and the ability for rapid assembly persuaded the judges to reward RēForm the grand prize of $5,000.

“We want to keep improving, keep building market knowledge and get some actual builders prepared and committed to use this,” said Nielson of his next plans. “If we can do that, I think we will do well.”

The crowd favorite and second-place winners, the creators of Lunch Box, took $4,000 in winnings for their mobile app. Lunch Box, already a likable tool for many students, provides users with information about free food on school campus and what the catch is. The app has already beat out similar applications by students at Carnegie Mellon, Berkley and Harvard. Lunch Box announced it has had over 10,000 unique BYU users since launching the app.

“If we had not won crowd favorite, we would have felt like Lunch Box was not doing its job,” said David Hepworth, BYU student and co-founder of Lunch Box. The competition was included on the Lunch Box app, announcing free JDawgs to the first 100 attendees.

Other winners and finalists included:

  • Xonano — a sensory foam, measuring acceleration and force that could be used in football helmets
  • Cherubim — an affordable security system that gives owners the decision to contact local authority or not
  • NodStop by Newton Technologies — a hat that monitors brainwaves and keeps drivers awake
  • ActiveOffice — a workstation allowing exercise and desk work to be done at the same time
  • Oyster — a cost-saving disposable syringe, designed to prevent needle sticks
  • RunForm — a tool that tracks a user’s running form in realtime to help them avoid injury

Kurt Workman, whose Owlet Baby Monitor won the competition last year, also presented a follow-up of his team’s success.

“(Owlet) just launched a pre-sales campaign and sold over 1000 units in the first 30 days,” said Workman, CEO and founder of Owlet Baby Care.

He explained that winning the competition last year helped Owlet to get its name out and pick up media coverage.

Andrew Pack, director of the competition and a BYU mechanical engineer student, said this is the fourth year of the competition that has been getting “bigger and better” each year.

“We’re really happy with the products that came out; great success has been coming from it continually,” said Pack. “We are excited to see the teams here and where they go in a year, and hopefully we will be able to hear back and see their success.”

Pack said anyone can join the competition and that each team is funded up to $400 to start before they even compete.

“This is one of the great events of the year because it combines the engineers with the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology,” said Tom Peterson, professor of entrepreneurship at BYU.

Peterson, also a judge of the competition, continued, “Business people, together with engineers, try to launch these ideas; it’s a great thing.”

The competition is put on each year by the BYU Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology and the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology.

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