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Retail, biomedical engineering students take top prizes at Purdue elevator pitch competition

March 30, 2009


Retail, biomedical engineering students take top prizes at Purdue elevator pitch competition

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue students marketing a high-tech motorcycle helmet and a biomedical device took top honors Friday (March 27) at the university's second annual Elevator Pitch Competition at Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.

Senior retailing student Mark Napier, who is developing the Angel Eyes helmet that alerts emergency personnel in the case of an accident, claimed the $1,000 first prize in the division for undergraduates enrolled in Purdue's Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program.


Biomedical engineering graduate student Rush Bartlett won $1,000 in the graduate, faculty, staff or Purdue Research Park division for his pitch on Hypoguard, a hypoglycemia injection tool.

"The spirit of entrepreneurship at Purdue clearly was on display at this competition," said Sascha Harrell, coordinator for Purdue's entrepreneurship certificate program. "The 33 elevator pitch participants also learned how stronger leadership and communication skills can be distinguishing factors in moving forward despite a tough economy."

Nikitha Sambamurthy of soy-based baby products company Soy Products was runner-up in the 23-team undergraduate student category, winning $500. Sawyer Sparks finished third and received the $250 prize for Soy-Yer Dough, a soy-based, non-allergenic modeling clay.

Vivek Shinde of Intelliphage Inc., a bacteria detection device maker for the food industry, won $500 for finishing second among the 10 teams in the graduate student, faculty and staff category. Jason Ford, with his workplace scheduling service FastShifts, won $250 for third place.

Each participant had two minutes to describe a business venture to judges. Three minutes were allotted for follow-up questions about the pitchers' product or service.

The competition, carrying the theme" Stand Up, Stand Out, Go Up," was open to Purdue students and faculty as well as entrepreneurs from Purdue Research Parks statewide.

The contest was organized by Purdue's Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program. Otis Elevator Co., law firm Bose McKinney and Evans LLP and Purdue's Discovery Park sponsored the competition.

Judges were Amy Millman, president and founder of Washington, D.C.-based Springboard Enterprises; Stephen Kempf, branch manager for Otis Elevator Inc.; Byron Pipes, John Leighton Bray Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Purdue; Bruce Kidd, senior vice president at Walker Information; and Julie Goonewardene, director of business development for the Purdue Research Foundation and Discovery Park.

Assisting the elevator pitchers were Mike Cassidy, owner of Fortress Strategy Group and an instructor in Purdue's entrepreneurship certificate program, and Dave Kitchell, a journalism instructor at Ball State University. Hank Feeser, an instructor for Purdue's entrepreneurship certificate program, was the competition moderator.

Purdue's Burton Morgan Center is a platform to launch technology-based enterprises based on university research, working closely with faculty, students and Indiana entrepreneurs to bring research and technology to market.

The center is in the third year of a five-year $1.5 million grant from the Kansas City, Mo.-based Kauffman Foundation to foster interdisciplinary entrepreneurship programs that tap into college students with backgrounds in liberal arts, engineering and other non-business programs.


Writer:  Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,


Sources: Sascha M. Harrell, 765-494-3805,

Nathalie Duval-Couetil, 765-494-7068,


Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: Journalists interested in talking to the winners or any of the participants about their business concept from the Purdue Elevator Pitch Competition can contact Phillip Fiorini, Purdue News Service, at, (765) 496-3133, (765) 427-3009 (cell).

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