|School team wins Carolina Challenge, another takes third place|
|April 26, 2012|
KM Water Solutions, a team affiliated with UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, took first place overall in the Carolina Challenge, a business and social venture competition designed to promote entrepreneurship at the university. The team, selected from 70 applicants, was presented with a $15,000 prize at the 'final four' event on April 4.
Team members include Mark Sobsey, PhD, and Alice Wang, doctoral candidate, both from the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering; Nimit Arora and Alan Lefebvre, both Master of Business Administration students; and Crista Farrell, program assistant in the Department of Chemistry.
KM Water Solutions assembled in 2011 to provide a simple, affordable and accurate method to test for microbial contaminants, such as E. coli, in household water. The portable, lab-independent method, called the Compartment Bag Test (CBT), detects and quantifies fecal bacteria in water.
"More than one billion people worldwide currently lack consistent access to safe (clean) drinking water, resulting in two million preventable deaths annually and a massive global health cost burden," said Wang. "With broad distribution, KM's test has the capacity to affect millions of lives."
The CBT enables on-the-spot water, food and hand testing without the need for a lab, electricity or expertise. The plastic bag has a color-changing agent that can be easily read and scored by those in need.There are no other tests or products available that deliver the cost savings, utility and scalability of the CBT.
"A low-cost water quality test is much needed in the developing world since most drinking waters are rarely and often poorly tested," Wang said. "With increased access to an on-the-spot water quality test, there will be increased water quality monitoring, producing data that will better inform practice and policy surrounding global drinking water issues."
ImmunoBenefit, another team associated with UNC's public health school, took third place in the faculty/staff/alumni competition track. Led by Melinda Beck, PhD, professor and associate chair of nutrition, the team won $1,000 and the People's Choice award. Other team members include Patricia Sheridan, PhD, nutrition research assistant professor, and Heather Nelson Cortes, Beck's former doctoral student.
"We provide testing of food/supplements or beverages for immune-enhancing properties," said Beck. "For example, if a large food company makes a claim that a particular food product can improve immunity, our company will test that product to provide credible, reliable science to back up the company's claims."
Beck said the experience was valuable.
"The competition really forces you to think about whether or not starting a company is something you actually want to do," she said. "Because of this experience, we decided that we would launch our company."
Both teams enlisted the help of Don Holzworth, MS, Gillings executive-in-residence at the public health school, to coach them in business presentation skills. With the help of his expertise, the teams tailored their presentations for a business audience.
"I took each team through several dry runs of their presentations," said Holzworth. "We worked at simplifying the slides and making them stand on their own from a content point of view; we also worked to capture viewer interest with pictures or graphics. They gained confidence and the belief they could win -- and they did!"
A student-led program, Carolina Challenge is supported by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School's Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. The John Stedman Endowments provides the competition prizes.
"I think the strength of the Challenge lies in its ability to force students and faculty to hash out their ideas and 'challenges' them to either sink or swim," said Grant Johnston, president of the Carolina Challenge Core Team. "There is also a good balance between constructive feedback/coaching and a competition mentality where only the best ideas and ventures move on to the next round."
|Last updated July 18, 2012|