Archives—November 2017

Fifth Annual Rekhi Innovation Challenge Underway

The fifth annual Rekhi Innovation Challenge kicked off on November 10th. Three Enterprise teams are competing for funding this year: Blue Marble Security, BoardSport Technologies, and Velovations. The Rekhi Challenge is a crowdfunding competition to help promote and support student innovation and entrepreneurship through Michigan Tech’s crowdfunding site, Superior Ideas. The team that raises the most money will receive a monetary match of up to $5,000. Monetary awards for total number of unique visitors, total number of unique funders, most social media engagement, most creative marketing plan, and the first team to raise $1,000 will also be presented to teams at the conclusion of the competition.

Superior Ideas was established in 2012 to help bring university research and public service projects to life. The site uses crowdfunding to raise money and awareness for university research and public service projects that may not qualify for grant funding. The Rekhi Innovation Challenge was developed in collaboration with the Enterprise Program Office and the Vice President for Research Office with support from Michigan Tech alumnus and longtime donor Kanwal Rekhi. Rekhi, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur, earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech in 1969.

Enterprise teams that have participated in past challenges include Innovative Global Solutions, Robotics Systems, Supermileage Systems, Aerospace, Blizzard Baja, GEAR and Open Source Hardware. Velovations took first place in the last competition with $2,550 in donations and a match of $2,550 from Rekhi, bringing the grand total to $5,100 in funding for their RENEW-U project. RENEW-U is an ergometer for wheelchair users to exercise upper-extremity muscles in order to improve strength and mobility. Over the last four years, the Rekhi Innovation Challenge has provided over $58,000 in support for 23 different student projects, attracting 267 unique donors.

For this year’s Rekhi Innovation Challenge, Blue Marble Security Enterprise is raising money to reach out to various community members and groups to increase interest in STEM fields among middle and high school students, particularly women. BoardSport Technologies wants to develop a SmartBoard that will track snowboarders via GPS and REECO location to ensure a speedy rescue if caught in an avalanche or lost. Velovations Enterprise is working with a local trails club to design and build a multi-purpose trail groomer with modular parts that can be swapped in the field to accommodate varying conditions.

Blue Marble Security team photo
Blue Marble Security team photo
BoardSport Technologies' SmartBoard
BoardSport Technologies’ SmartBoard
Velovations' Snow Trail Groomer
Velovations’ Snow Trail Groomer

If you’d like to learn more about any of these projects or donate, please visit Superior Ideas. The Rekhi Innovation Challenge will run through March 31, 2018. Help support student innovation and entrepreneurship at Michigan Tech by making a donation today.


ITOxygen Enterprise Awarded Additional $10,000 Bonus Funding in Ford C3 Go Further Challenge

From left: Russ Louks, Paul Torola, Zack Lewis, Sarah Blum and Brandon King accepting their check for $10,000 in grant funding
From left: Russ Louks, Brandon King, Zack Lewis, Sarah Blum and Paul Torola accepting a check for $10,000 in additional grant funding from Ford Motor Fund

Michigan Tech’s ITOxygen Enterprise was one of just ten teams nationwide named as winners of the Ford College Community Challenge, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company Fund. The team was chosen to receive $25,000 in grant money to implement a project working with a local non-profit organization. Following the initial selection process, ITOxygen (ITO) was invited to compete in the 10th Anniversary Go Further bonus round challenge. Representing the Enterprise team, Sarah Blum, Brandon King, Paul Torola, and Zack Lewis, traveled to the Ford world headquarters in Dearborn, MI to compete for a Ford vehicle and additional project funding. The team placed third overall and was awarded an additional $10,000 in grant funding for their project.

Sarah Blum presenting in Dearborn, MI
Sarah Blum presenting in Dearborn, MI

Building upon a Michigan Tech Alumnus’ support for Enterprise teams to engage with local community non-profits that benefit the elderly, ITOxygen’s project is focused on increasing the mobility of the elderly community in the Upper Peninsula. Specifically, the project intends to address issues related to inefficiencies in the medical transport services provided by Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, in Hancock. ITO’s student team met with representatives from Little Brothers this week to discuss the implementation of their proposed medical transportation system and potential uses for the additional $10,000.

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ITOxygen students meet with Little Brothers Executive Director Cathy Kass-Aten and other representatives from the non-profit

Aiming at achieving the goal of Little Brothers of relieving isolation and loneliness among the elderly, along with the goals of the Ford C3, the team is developing a medical transportation management system. Currently, Little Brothers has limited flexibility to adapt to frequently changing schedules. This ITOxygen-developed system would allow for efficient utilization of Little Brothers’ volunteer network and resource pool. The management system will create a more flexible and adaptable service, ultimately allowing for the local elderly community to retain their independence and remain in their own homes and still have access to reliable transportation for medical care.

Russ Louks, a professor of practice in Tech’s School of Business and Economics is the advisor for Tech’s team. He explained how the project came about, “Being the advisor for the ITOxygen Enterprise has been an incredible opportunity for me to watch the students grow and mature into IT professionals that can deliver projects that add value to an organization. The Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly project, along with the Ford C3 grant and support from an alumnus, takes that a step further. It gives us the opportunity to deliver a project that will have a lasting impact on our community. As our population ages, it is so important that we provide ways for them to stay active in the community, and this project will provide Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly with the tools necessary to assist them for many years to come.”

Rick Berkey, Director of the Enterprise Program at Michigan Tech, highlighted the educational impact of this partnership. “The Ford Motor Company Fund serves as a catalyst for ‘making lives better’ by connecting unmet community needs with financial resources, with students serving as the vital link between the two. What a rewarding opportunity for students in the ITOxygen Enterprise to be able to harness their ideas, energy, and talents for the benefit of our local elderly community. The Ford C3 program’s hands-on approach to building sustainable communities aligns well with the Enterprise Program’s team-based, experiential learning model.” 

From left: Sarah Blum, Zack Lewis, Paul Torola, and Brandon King
From left: Sarah Blum, Zack Lewis, Brandon King, and Paul Torola

This was the tenth year of the Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3). This year’s theme was “Making Lives Better.” Ford C3 is designed to empower college students to develop community-building projects that address local need. Ford C3 works with partners in higher education that are focused on the critical areas of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). Each year up to ten grants are awarded to proposals that identify an unmet community need tied to one of three areas: Driving Social Mobility, Changing the Way People Move through Smart Mobility and Building Sustainable Communities.

About Ford College Community Challenge

Through the Ford College Community Challenge, Ford Motor Company Fund aims to support colleges and universities as they work with students to design and develop tangible community projects that address critical local needs in new ways, with a focus on helping the community become a more sustainable place to work and live.

About Ford Motor Company Fund:

Ford Motor Company Fund is the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company. Ford Fund works with community and global partners to advance education, safe driving and community life. Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 67 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. Ford Driving Skills for Life is free, interactive, hands-on safety training focused on skill development and driving techniques, while addressing inexperience, distractions and impaired driving. Innovation in education is encouraged through Ford Blue Oval Scholars, Ford Driving Dreams, Ford Next Generation Learning and other innovative programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. The Ford Volunteer Corps enlists more than 30,000 Ford employees and retirees each year to work on local projects that strengthen their communities and improve people’s lives in more than 40 countries around the world. For more information, visit https://www.fordblueovalnetwork.org/medical-transportation-management-system-michigan-technological-university.