BYU competition fosters ingenuity and impactful products

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The Student Innovator of the Year winners for 2021 are Amanda Lytle and Jacob Sheffield, creators of the product LaparoVision. Their product is a self-cleaning device that attaches to the camera used in surgeries, helping to create a safer environment for surgeries and saving millions of dollars. (BYU Engineering)

The BYU College of Engineering and the Marriott School of Business hosted the 11th Student Innovator of the Year competition this semester.

The Weidman Center for Global Leadership, in partnership with the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, creates this opportunity for collaboration across majors and fosters ingenuity.

“For 11 years the Student Innovator of the Year has helped students turn ideas into reality through funding workshops and some healthy competition,” said Joe Holt, the host of the final competition and professional entertainer.

On Facebook, the BYU College of Engineering said each year, the competition’s contestants never cease to amaze, inspire and motivate with their innovative ideas. This year was no different.

In the final competition on March 24, finalists presented products that will shorten surgery time, filter the air, create a better way to help autistic and neurodiverse children and much more. Projects that didn’t make it to the final competition can still be found on the BYU College of Engineering website.

With COVID-19 restrictions, the competition was virtual this year. BYU engineering student and member of the third-place winning team Jacob Buhler said COVID-19 forced his team to be more creative and work online, but didn’t stop them from creating a great product.

Buhler and his team created a company called Skapa to help neurodiverse children and their parents establish and maintain a routine. One of their products is an app that schedules routines and tracks rewards. The app can be downloaded on both Apple and Android stores.

“Parents and caregivers are often left to their own devices when it comes to raising a neurodiverse child. We are determined to put the power back into the parent’s hands through their own mobile devices,” Buhler said.

Third place winners for 2021, from left to right, Jacob Buhler, Spencer Curtis and Connor Lindsey are the creators of Skapa, a company that creates products to help establish a routine and reward system for neurodiverse children and parents. This product has already helped many parents and children to achieve a better sense of normalcy. (BYU Engineering)

Grant Hagen, the first place winner in 2020, participated in the competition for four years. His team created a product to revolutionize the roof removing industry by providing an automated device that assists operators in removing old or damaged roof material.

“The SIOY competition allows students to take their dreams of projects and make them into reality,” Hagen said. His company, Auxilium Automation, makes the Primus, which reduces time spent on the roof from 90 minutes to 20 minutes. This keeps roofers safer in the fourth most dangerous U.S. occupation.

According to the BYU Engineering SIOY website, the annual competition has kickstarted now-successful companies such as Owlet, Khione, MyoStorm and more.

Kurt Workman, a BYU electrical engineering alumnus, recently announced his company Owlet will go public on the New York Stock Exchange. Workman said the competition was a pivotal point in momentum and validation for Owlet.

“It forced us to address the technical challenges early but also gave us a unique opportunity to get feedback. We owe a lot of our early success to the opportunities that stemmed from competing in the SIOY competition,” Workman said.

Guest speaker Kurt Workman presented on his company Owlet at the Student Innovator of the Year final competition in 2021. Owlet started as a project for Student Innovator of the Year and has now become a multi-million dollar company, giving peace of mind to one and a half million parents across the world. (BYU Engineering)

Owlet initially premiered in 2012 as a prototype in the Student Innovator of the Year competition. Workman was part of a team of BYU Engineering students that created and presented the idea at the competition.

The first prototype Owlet Baby Monitor was created to measure an infant’s heart rate in a non-invasive manner. Workman said Owlet now has four products on the market and will be launching its fifth and sixth this year.

“I think it’s important to note that Owlet is not alone as a success story from BYU. There are so many success stories out of the SIOY program and the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship. It’s just incredible,” Workman said.

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