Bright Ideas Get Center Stage at InnoVention's Demo Day

Technology that helps coaches and athletes fine-tune performance? An app that can streamline the modular-construction process? A low-cost Internet-enabled diagnostic tool with the potential to revolutionize healthcare in developing nations? Each one is inarguably a very good idea.

You might be surprised to know that these innovations didn’t stem from the minds of seasoned engineers with decades of experience. Much to the contrary, each was developed by a team of students competing in the 2016 InnoVention Competition at NYU Tandon.

The competition culminated on Demo Day, held on April 28 at Twitter headquarters in downtown Manhattan, when six finalists pitched their products to a team of judges that included angel investor Joseph Kushner; Vine lead engineer Felix Fung; Steve Kuyan, managing director of the NYU Tandon Incubators; and NYU Entrepreneurial Institute Executive Director Frank Rimalovski.

“There are many good ideas being formed out there in the world, but most of them never reach this stage of fruition,” Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan, who was in attendance, said. “Of course, it took a great deal of hard work on the part of the competitors, and it’s all the more amazing considering that their teams formed just 12 shorts weeks ago.”

While every team undeniably worked hard, three in particular stood out:

In third place — a prize that came with $2,500 cash, three months of Incubator access, and assorted other benefits, including free legal advice — was Fit A. I, which its creators envision marketing to gym facilities and university sports programs. The product (comprised of hardware and software) merges embedded systems, motion recognition, and machine learning to offer quantification and analysis of an athlete’s strength-training regime. (Chances are probably good that Twitter headquarters had never been the site of a weight-lifting demonstration, but that was, indeed, one element of the team’s award-winning pitch to the judges.)

Second place ($4,500 cash, three months of Incubator access, and other benefits) went to Acculis, augmented reality and computer vision software with SaaS integration for use by the modular-construction industry. “We aim to make construction practices more efficient and accurate down to the individual screw,” the team members explained during their pitch. “And we’ll be providing valuable metrics throughout the life of the building.” With modular building steadily gaining in popularity, Acculis has already attracted serious attention within the industry.

NYU nurtures rock-star entrepreneurs the same way other schools nurture their top athletes.

The memorably named PocDoc, a product conceived by the Elements Digital Health team, took first prize ($6,500 cash, three months of Incubator access, prototyping services, an interview for NYU’s Summer Launchpad program, and more). A portable IoT (Internet of Things) diagnostic tool, PocDoc can measure temperature, blood pressure, blood oxygenation, and blood glucose, and also incorporates EKG capabilities. During an evocative and moving pitch, the team showed slides of a doctor working in rural India and explained how their portable, low-cost device could improve the care available to millions of patients. PocDoc impressed the judges, in part, for perfectly fitting the mission of InnoVention: to use students’ knowledge of science, engineering, and technology — along with their imaginations and creativity — to solve problems of high societal impact.

Those teams that did not make the final three were encouraged not to give up on their ideas. Guest speaker Jason Green, the CEO and co-founder of EdenWorks, a thriving company that builds vertical aquaponic farms in urban areas, explained that just a few years ago, as an NYU student, he had entered InnoVention along with his team. “We didn’t win, but we didn’t stop pursuing our vision,” he said. “You are definitely in the right place to keep at it. NYU nurtures rock-star entrepreneurs the same way other schools nurture their top athletes.”

Read more about how: InnoVention Competition Paves Way for Student Startups