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Students engineer solutions to real-world problems


This semester, four classes of engineering and business students have been working to solve the world’s problems. Instead of having a final exam, they will be asked to present solutions to these problems.
Members of two business plan development courses and two engineering entrepreneurship courses worked together to brainstorm real-world problems, develop products to solve those problems and create a business plan for those products.
According to Courtney Lynch, a senior business management major and member of a business plan development course, the process was not easy.
“At the beginning of the semester, each person presents a problem to the class,” Lynch said. “Then, the professors work together to narrow those down, and each person ranks which problem they want to work on.”
From that point the professors − Sandra Kauanui, Neil Selvin, Lisa Zidek and Joe Cuiffi − divided students into teams based on majors, strengths and which problem they wanted to research and solve, and the students began to work.
Lynch described the project as “a lot of very involved work.”
“Each group drafted a couple of different solutions to their problem and presented them in class, and then worked on which solutions seemed the most accurate and achievable,” Lynch said. “You have to develop a solution that targets your problem but also suits your team.”
Lynch found that the business students and engineering students balanced each other out well.
“Sometimes an idea would seem great, but it’s so expensive that people won’t buy it. Sometimes we come up with a great idea that we could not actually engineer.”
Lynch’s group is called the Wheelchair Innovators.
“There are people who spend the majority to all of their day in a wheelchair,” Lynch said. “So they’re spending 12 to 15 hours in a wheelchair, and there are certain pressure points that they sit on in the standard chair that causes pain.”
The Wheelchair Innovators, made up of engineering students Fernando Decordova, Roshonda Knight, Christian Padron, Rachael Terseck and Alexander Fernandez and business students Javier Montoya,  Maritza Payan, Felipe Papadopoulos and Lynch, have spent the semester developing what they see as a solution to this discomfort.
The Rolling Recliner is a wheelchair accessory that can connect to the back of a wheelchair put the chair in a special position to help relieve the pressure that causes pain to people who sit in a wheelchair all day.
The Wheelchair Innovators is just one of at least ten groups that will present their problem and prototype at the Eagle Biz Awards, which will be held at Mercato’s Venture X Office in Naples Dec. 6. The groups will present to a panel of five judges made up of engineering and business leaders in the community. The team that is the winner of the judges’ vote will be awarded a cash prize to be used to further develop its product prototype.
The event will be hosted by the Florida Gulf Coast University Institute of Entrepreneurship, Lutgert College of Business and the U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering. Katarina Danks, a student intern for the Institute, is hoping for a large student turnout to the event.
“We’d love to have students come and support their peers and see what people in their classes are doing,” Danks said.
Judging will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m., and the presentations will be open to the public between 1:30 and 4 p.m. Members of the public will be able to vote for their favorite product, and the winners of the judges’ and public award will present their product at the end of the competition.
The main sponsors for the event are local entrepreneurs Frank and Ellen Daveler and DeAngelis Diamond Construction. The panel of judges includes Tim Cartwright and Bud Stoddard of the Tamiami Angel Fund, John DeAngelis and David Diamond of DeAngelis Diamond Construction, and John Gamba, a local entrepreneur.
The Institute for Entrepreneurship is a program directed by LCOB and the U.A Whitaker College of Engineering to help students build their own products and companies. It works with local businesses and investors to give students entrepreneurial advice and assistance.

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