A kickoff for the 13th annual Student Innovator of the Year competition (SIOY) occurred on Sept. 6 in the BYU Engineering Building.
Run by the School of Engineering, the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology and the Weidman Center for Global Leadership, SIOY allows BYU students and other individuals on their team to receive up to $400 to prototype their idea and turn them into a reality. Students will compete against each other in the competition to be in the running for part of the total $50,000 in prize money.
SIOY director Steven Boggess said the competition experience allows students to develop personal skills to put on a resume, practice design principles, find and fix real-world problems and turn failures into successes.
2021 SIOY winner and BYU graduate student Chad Pollard created Renew Diagnostics, a blood test that diagnoses Alzheimer’s disease early. After winning and receiving $12,000 in a grant to further his product, Pollard said he had multiple investment firms reach out to him offering a few million dollars.
“We’re taking off, and it’s all been through BYU and opportunities that have happened,” Pollard said. “A lot more people pay attention to what we produce at BYU than you realize.”
The SIOY competition is a multistep process beginning with making an idea into a prototype development. Students can apply before competing to receive up to $400 in grants. As they work on their prototypes, they can network with others to create a team and be mentored by professionals and at the end of the competition, judges will select finalists and decide the ultimate winner.
SIOY co-director Annie Ellis said students’ ideas do not have to be big or groundbreaking; creating a team with a diverse set of skills alone would be a good start to the experience.
James Wade, a sophomore in Mechanical Engineering, said he came to the kickoff to scope things out. Though will not be competing this year, Wade said he attended the meeting to understand the annual event for future years and to start networking.
Because part of SIOY is judged on the value of impact, Wade said he would consider looking into making robotics more affordable in developing countries.