Shark Tank- like contest draws entrepreneurs

DELOITTE CONSULTING SPONSORED the event, encouraging creativity and profits.

On Saturday March 25, students from all walks of RPI life came together to form teams and compete in a Shark Tank style competition hosted by Deloitte Consulting. The event, which lasted for four days, had students prototype and attempt to sell an original idea to a panel of judges made up of RPI professors and Deloitte employees. The theme of this competition was “Improving Campus” and all of the designs need two things: a purpose or otherwise concrete function, and a way to generate profit for the creators.

The first group going proposed a water-awareness module the could be installed on campus to make students recognize how much water they use in an attempt to conserve future water usage. The device would be a small sensor that would be attached to both a faucet and a shower, and then linked with an LCD monitor that tracks how much water flows through each respective outlet. The group argued that any money that was saved would go towards green initiatives on campus, and would pay for itself in a short period of time. They also discussed paying for water usage, as collected data could be used by administrators to determine what to charge for water at institutions similar to RPI.

A second group worked on an expansion of the RPI Shuttle Tracker. Currently a system is in place which tracks shuttles through GPS and outputs that data to the shuttle tracking website. This team argued that putting all that data into an app would be both more efficient, and would draw more students into using school-provided public transportation. The current shuttle system is flawed because people constantly complain about shuttles not being on time and therefore causing students to miss classes or important exams. This app would be different from the existing system because it provides a centralized user interface based on what stop you are at, and based on when you would like to board a shuttle. It also has a feature that I would personally like implemented on campus: user-based shuttle destination generation. The group behind the shuttle app redesign introduced a mechanic where users of the app could vote on future shuttle locations to areas not currently offered on the routes. There would include both existing locations, like stores or alternate malls, and special functions, like day trips or concerts. The group also argued that this app could be used by businesses, like food delivery cars, to provide a real-time estimate of when they would arrive at their destination.

A third group marked their app as a Cafe-To-Go app which was targeted to college campuses. Its aim was to reduce lines and waiting times at campus cafes by providing a method of ordering food on one’s phone. Similarly to the Panera to-go app, Cafe-To-Go would have a list of available cafes and a list of foods that could be ordered through them. A student would be able to pay in RPI Flex or RAD to have a meal made, and then left on a shelf for them so they could hurry to class and not be forced to wait in a line. The group estimates that RPI could profit between $5,000–$31,000 a year by eliminating lines at it’s different cafes, and in turn, could help branch the app out to new schools.

The competition was a smash hit, with eight groups of three to five students working hard to pitch their dreams. I hope the students had as much fun developing their project as I did watching the reveals.