Blazer Innovation Challenge to reward student ideas through “Shark Tank”-style competition

The deadline for submissions is Oct. 23.
Written by: Katherine Shonesy
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dean jack blazer innovation challengeFrom left, Erick Jack, Ph.D., dean of the Collat School of Business and Greg King, IBERIABANK executive vice president and UAB MBA alumnus award the winner, Forrest Satterfield.Students with innovative business ideas will have the opportunity to win up to $5,000 to help get their concepts off the ground this fall.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham Innovation Lab (iLab) and Collat School of Business will host the second annual Blazer Innovation Challenge, sponsored by IBERIABANK, to encourage UAB students to develop new solutions to product, service or process challenges.

In addition to winning up to $5,000 in prize money, entrants will have the opportunity to benefit from valuable mentoring, coaching and other iLab resources to help incubate their ideas and potentially launch their own startup companies throughout the 2017-18 academic year.

“The Blazer Innovation Challenge will help us engage bright and creative students from throughout UAB to put great ideas into practice,” said Joel Dobbs, Collat’s entrepreneur-in-residence. “Many of our students, either individually or with fellow students, identify real-world problems that they are passionate about solving. The Blazer Innovation Challenge will allow us to identify, fund and nurture some of the best of these.”

Last year, Forrest Satterfield, a biomedical engineering student, took home the top prize for his proposal to develop a manufacturing system for motorized prosthetics that marries traditional production of motors with additive manufacturing of 3-D-printed prosthetics.

After receiving mentoring and coaching, and participating in I-Corps training, Satterfield pivoted his idea to begin the development of a 3-D printed sensor that can measure a number of things—force, temperature and vibration, for instance. These sensors can be used in a number of different applications. In the case of prosthetics, the sensors will be able to provide better control over movements, as they will be measuring data in real-time.

Satterfield is continuing his work at Innovation Depot.

“The depot is amazing,” Satterfield said. “We are able to borrow and share space and equipment with the other businesses here. It’s uniquely suited to benefit us right now.”

After graduating with a UAB degree in economics last year, second-place winner Jeremy Mock had plans to head to law school. After participating in the Blazer Innovation Challenge, he is now designing artificial intelligence software for medical information.

innovation depot studentsStudents discuss projects with entrepreneur-in-residence Joel Dobbs in the UAB iLab at Innovation Depot.After interviewing and shadowing more than a hundred medical professionals, Mock begun his work to develop a system that takes information from the patient and intelligently automates certain processes based on the details that were input.

Mock is now taking his idea to New York City to bring his company to the next level by partnering with businesses to build out the prototype and begin testing it in a clinical setting.

Students can work individually or as part of a team, but can submit only one idea for consideration. Along with their challenge application, students will submit a one-minute video that explains the idea, the problem it solves and why it is relevant. Applicants will have the opportunity to participate in workshops hosted by the College of Arts and Sciencesmedia studies program in the Department of History.

The first round of submissions is due by midnight Oct. 23. Five finalists will be selected by Oct. 27 to receive coaching through the UAB iLab. The finalists will compete against one another with live presentations and Q&A before a panel of judges at the iLab on Nov. 16.

The first-place winner will receive $5,000, while the second- and third-place winners will receive $2,500 and $1,000, respectively. Along with the funding for their idea, the finalists will receive valuable coaching and mentoring from professionals within the iLab and the Collat School of Business throughout the 2017-18 academic year.

“This is an exciting opportunity for our students to put their ideas on the table and receive mentoring and coaching from professionals on how to turn those ideas into real businesses,” said Eric P. Jack, Ph.D., dean of the Collat School of Business. “We are thrilled to partner with IBERIABANK on this challenge and are eager to see the innovations our students develop.”

The competition will be open to all current UAB students who plan to be enrolled during the entire 2017-18 academic year. Ideas cannot be the result of grant funding, employment at UAB or other direct support from UAB. To apply, visit the Blazer Innovation Challenge website. More information about the competition, rules for eligibility and judging criteria can also be found online.