This story was written by Megan Hanks and first appeared on news.umbc.edu
When Balaji Viswanathan’s grandfather was injured in a fall at a senior care facility a few years ago, he committed to seeing what he could do to prevent it from happening again, to his grandfather or other older adults. Viswanathan, M.S ‘06, Ph.D. ‘21, computer science, developed Invento, a technology that analyzes movement patterns to determine fall risk and notify caregivers if a fall seems likely, helping caretakers prevent injuries from falls.
Balaji Viswanathan. Photo courtesy of Viswanathan.
Invento earned first place in the technology track of UMBC’s eighth annual Cangialosi Business Innovation Competition hosted by the Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship. The event was held virtually on April 29, with one track focused on technology and the other focused on social impact ideas beyond tech.
Vivian Armor ‘73, American studies, director of the Alex. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship, explains that the two tracks offered this year allowed students to propose a broader range of ideas. “Special thanks to entrepreneurial alums Khuram Zaman ‘05, political science, and Asif Khan ‘04, information systems and computer science, co-founders of FifthTribe, for reaching out to support the new social impact track this year. It’s a wonderful addition to the competition originally founded by Greg Cangialosi ‘96, English, in 2014,” says Armor. “It’s very rewarding to see our Retriever alums generously give back to help develop the next wave of entrepreneurs for the future.”
The competition provides opportunities for students interested in entrepreneurship to connect with alumni and advisors. “The CBIC competition is a great platform for startups to get discovered by investors,” Viswanathan says. “We participated in the competition, winning the top prize in our category. And through that we got a key advisor and also connected with investors.”
Affordability and sustainability
Second place in the technology track went to Edullo, led by Esha Vangara ‘23, economics. Vangara explains that Edullo offers affordable and personalized tutoring that is fast for students to access. The system is structured differently than traditional tutoring companies. All of the tutors are also students, tutoring is fully online, and students who access tutoring aren’t required to sign up for subscriptions or to sign longer-term contracts.
Kayleigh Nelson ‘23, global studies, presented Digitize My Closet, which placed third on the technology track. Rather than producing physical clothing, Digitize My Closet produces digital clothing for users to “wear” while on video calls. The clothing moves with the model on screen, providing users with a way to wear clothing that they may only need for a singular event without needing to purchase new pieces. This approach, explains Nelson, is a more environmentally and financially sustainable way for people to expand their wardrobes.
Innovation with social impact
In the social impact category, Mariah Qureshi ‘23, computer science, took first place with a proposal to grow codeHer. Qureshi is an executive board member of codeHer, a nonprofit organization that works to address the gender gap in STEM fields by empowering women and providing them with tools to help them succeed in computing and science.
Mariah Qureshi. Photo courtesy of Qureshi.
CodeHer plans to expand the course offerings in and around Baltimore, explains Qureshi, to support underserved youth who are interested in STEM disciplines. She says that they plan to develop after-school programs for high school and middle school students, as well as provide personalized mentoring to students.
Kelvin Johnson M.P.S. ‘21, entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership, presented Businessaire and earned second place. Businessaire is a board game that increases financial literacy by teaching business principles and information about the economy.
Sotonye Koko ‘21, information systems, and Yvann Tientcheu ‘21, information systems, earned third prize for EndeaVR. They propose using virtual reality technology to provide online services such as job training, to address high recidivism rates among people in the U.S. prison system.
Through this annual competition, winners receive funding to continue to advance their idea. They also access the opportunity to connect with local entrepreneurs who serve as mentors and help connect them with Baltimore’s entrepreneurship community.
“CBIC was an enriching experience that I’d recommend for every UMBC student who is entrepreneurship-oriented. I’m grateful for the immense help provided by the competition mentors and coordinators, even during COVID-19,” says Qureshi. “I learned of several different ways to further my own social venture, and have had many professional and personal takeaways from this experience.”
Banner image: The UMBC Albin O. Kuhn Library in spring 2017. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.