First Villanova Innovation Chase Sends Seven Engineering Students to National Competition in Chicago

Eleven engineering students participated in the inaugural Villanova Innovation Chase.

Three teams of engineering students spent the weekend of March 11 racing through a series of design, research, and prototyping challenges to improve campus transportation as part of the inaugural Villanova Innovation Chase, a three-day competition that served as a qualifying round for the annual Chicago Innovation Chase inter-collegiate student entrepreneurship competition. Two teams of engineering students will compete in the national competition at the Illinois Institute of Technology in September.

“Our first Villanova Innovation Chase was a great success. Our student teams came up with some very creative ideas to help us combat a daily challenge we face on campus. But, as they all know from their Engineering Entrepreneurship classes, a successful innovation needs to be more than just creative,” says Edmond Dougherty, Visiting Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Interim Director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Minor program.

Each team was charged with devising an innovative product or service to combat campus transportation issues that they could develop from the ideation stage to the marketing process. Throughout the weekend, the teams refined and strengthened their ideas through multiple iterations of the design, research, and prototyping process organized into 16 individual competition events. Tasks included creating an elevator pitch, mapping their vision, developing a design, conducting market research, prototyping, pricing, creating opportunity assessments, and writing business proposals. Along the way, each team remained vigilant to the possibility that at any moment, the challenge organizers could introduce an unexpected curveball into the process. For example, on Saturday afternoon, as the teams were hard at work preparing for a presentation, an 11 year-old student from Valley Forge Middle School was added to their teams to deliver the presentation to the judges.

Final student solutions included:

  • Campus Connection, a smartphone application that tracks campus shuttles and provides real-time alerts to users regarding the location of the shuttles and the likelihood of space for passengers by the time it reaches the user’s stop. This concept was developed by inNOVAtion (David Reichman CE ’12; Jose Alvarez Gallegos ME ’12; Scott Deady ME ’12; and Daniel Rosato CE ’12).
  • Grab-n-Go Bicycles would provide hundreds of all-weather bikes on-campus, unlocked via the student’s Wildcard. This concept was proposed by Full House (Yazid El Hiali CE ’12, Salima Bouhriz CE ’14, and Benjamin Miller CE ’13).
  • Where’s Will? would place informative electronic displays at each campus shuttle stop to provide users with updated information regarding the shuttle and other useful information. The system would also provide campus planners with information regarding the usage and performance of the campus shuttles. This concept was developed by the all-sophomore team The Four Fantastic (Megan Swaim ChE ’13, Nick DeLuca ME ’13, Alex Metz ME ’13, and Brandon Orr ME ’13).

Every few hours during the weekend, the teams presented the results of their challenges to a number of judges, including:

  • Jeetsingh Bhujun EE ’11
  • Edmond Dougherty EE ’69, MSCS ‘86
  • E.J. Dougherty CS '92, MSCS ‘01
  • Sean Dunn ME ‘11
  • Mark Gaeto, local entrepreneur
  • John Hartner ME ’85, entrepreneur
  • Dr. William Hurley of the Villanova School of Business
  • Dr. James Klinger of the Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship (ICE Center) and Assistant Professor of Management & Operations
  • Dr. Ross Lee of the Department of Geography and Environment
  • Dr. Patrick Maggitti, the Carmen and Sharon Danella Director of the ICE Center and Assistant Professor of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship
  • William McCann ME ‘11
  • Lauren Pugh EE ‘11
  • George Simmons MSCS ‘87, Director of the Villanova Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory
  • Dr. Pritpal Singh, Professor and Chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department
  • Ted Stack, local entrepreneur
  • Jeff Yatczyn EE ’95 of Lockheed Martin

The judges evaluated ideas based on criteria provided by the Chicago Innovation Chase’s national coordinators. Two teams, inNOVAtion and Full House, completed the challenge in a virtual tie and will both advance to the national competition this fall.

Click here for video from the weekend.