A kit for electronics prototyping and programming earned first place in the University’s annual Top Ram Idea and Business Model Competition presented by Blackstone LaunchPad.
D&D Smart Kit, pitched by M.S. in user experience and interaction design student John Rodrigues and M.S. in industrial design student Delara Kiani, is an affordable kit and course that helps designers develop their prototype without having to learn to code. Developed over the past year, their solution saves time and money, as well as allows people to get more creative and see their inventions come to life faster, they explained.
Along with the $1,200 Matt Glass Award for Entrepreneurship—established by Steven Glass, MD, in honor of his late son Matt Glass ’15—and coaching from Blackstone LaunchPad, the pair said they gained confidence, valuable feedback on their concept and a better appreciation of the pitching process.
“It’s so important to simplify the technical terms, so everybody can understand and connect with the idea,” Rodrigues said.
In Top Ram, 10 teams of students from Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) pitched their ideas in the Lawrence N. Field DEC Center Forum on Dec. 6 to a panel of judges. A brief Q&A followed each seven-minute presentation. Judging criteria included product/service innovation, research, potential impact, concept viability, business model innovation and storytelling.
Runner-up went to Revive, a sustainable clothing company that allows consumers to repurpose their out-of-style denim by reviving them into fashion-forward pieces. With the concept, they would embellish gently worn and used denim, giving items a fresh, new look.
The team of fashion design senior Ally Laskowski, fashion merchandising and management junior Brianna Giarraputo and finance freshman C.J. Goodz won $500, as well as coaching from Blackstone LaunchPad. They also earned the $100 award for business model innovation.
“It’s always great to talk to industry professionals and get their opinion on your presentations,” Laskowski said. “It’s another thing we can add to our professional careers.”
Top Ram judges included Heather Rose, PhD, JD, director of technology licensing at Jefferson’s Innovation Pillar; Irving Gerber ’69, university alumnus and former equal employment opportunity manager with the United Parcel Service; Shubha Bennur, PhD, director of Jefferson’s M.S. in global fashion enterprise program; Jason Crook, MBA, assistant professor of marketing at Jefferson; Ben Barnett, CEO of Media Bureau; and entrepreneur and investor Harvey Hoffman.
Judging Top Ram for the third year, Hoffman was impressed with the innovation and passion he saw by the students, noting he thought several concepts could be commercialized. “I love the opportunity to see early-stage ideas and ventures,” Hoffman said.
Other pitches ranged from an electric skateboard, to a care package subscription plan, to a convertible whiteboard table/presentation board, to a scalp applicator and occlusion headcap for people with skin conditions, which won the product innovation prize.
“Top Ram allows the entrepreneurship center to stir up ideas on campus and get students to think twice about opportunities that have the potential to be a real business if you put in the effort,” said Abena Nyarko, program manager of Blackstone LaunchPad at Jefferson.