TU fosters student entrepreneurship in interdisciplinary competitions

Participants honed key problem-solving, entrepreneurial skills this spring

By Megan Bradshaw on June 20, 2019

Paige Zaleppa, Subrata Acharya, Nicholas Vasilii
Team TU 508 Compliant Kickin’ Hippos—computer science majors Page Zaleppa and Nicholas Visalii—who won the TU Codes! competition. They are pictured with Subrata Acharya.

Towson University faculty and staff work hard to prepare students for future careers. That includes lectures, of course, but it also involves creating opportunities for students to practice the skills employers want: thinking critically, solving problems and presenting solutions.

TU Codes!

TU’s School of Emerging Technologies’ (SET) Health Informatics Special Interest Group (SIG) held the first TU Codes! competition on May 3 in association with the Towson Research Academy of Collaborative Sport Science (TRACS).

“We wanted to hold this competition to foster interdisciplinary research collaboration among different areas of faculty, provide experiential learning for students and develop and leverage a homegrown solution to a problem specific to the TU community,” says Subrata Acharya, a Health Informatics SIG co-coordinator and computer and information sciences associate professor. 

Open to all TU students, the focus of the competition was to develop solutions to seamlessly integrate TU student-athletes’ athletic performance data—housed on multiple platforms—into a usable format. Participants were then to construct an iOS application that would provide student-athletes with reliable and synchronized data to share with athletics personnel to help guide their strength and conditioning programs. 

Participating teams had 10 weeks to design their solutions and prepare a live pitch. Judges included members of the faculty and staff from athletics, the departments of Computer and Information Sciences, and Kinesiology. They chose four of the eight teams to deliver their pitches. 

Team TU 508 Compliant Kickin’ Hippos—computer science majors Page Zaleppa and Nicholas Visalii—won the competition, while TU Tech—computer science majors Jeremy Keith, Nicholas Wilkins and Jose De La Rossa—placed second. The teams shared the $1,250 prize, and Zaleppa and Visalii have the opportunity to work on their app over the summer. 

“The first-place team had the most comprehensive app that was also compliant with HIPAA regulations,” says Devon Dobrosielski, a Health Informatics SIG co-coordinator and associate professor of kinesiology.  “It was this added privacy and security feature that put it over the top for me. The interface was also the most appealing and user friendly. All data was easily accessible. Finally, the presentation itself was excellent.” 

Acharya is already looking to the next steps for the app. 

“The path forward is for us to facilitate the business model design and prepare for a beta product launch of the application—tentatively supported by SET—in the upcoming academic year,” she continues.

CBE Business Model Canvas Competition

As winners of the TU Codes! Competition, Zaleppa and Visalii presented their app during the annual College of Business and Economics (CBE) Business Model Canvas Competition on May 13.

Dina Ekalle
Dina Ekalle presenting Borderless Books, which won $350 in the competition

This was the fourth time in three years CBE has hosted the competition. Participants created posters explaining their business models; the posters were on display at Entrepreneurship @ TU Demo Day and presented to judges Anne Balduzzi of TEDCO and Mike Kenneally ‘12 from ECD Lacrosse

The competition was open to the whole TU community and focused on early-stage ideas. CBE also provided mentors to the 31 participants. They had four minutes to pitch their business model and four minutes to answer judges’ questions. 

The student entrepreneurs who placed in this semester’s competition were:

  • Tiffany Barrett and Kristin Malone, who won $750 for Degree Mapping
  • Alexander Muldrow, who won $500 for Kick Stats
  • Dina Ekalle, who won $350 for Borderless Books 

“CIE's entrepreneurship competitions provide an invaluable experience for students,” says Jan Baum, management professor and director of the entrepreneurship minor. “It is always thrilling to see any student brand new to entrepreneurship receive acknowledgement for their ideas. 

“It also makes us super proud when students launch business after business because it proves that they have been infected with the entrepreneurial bug. Abby MacQueen launched Guppi as a part of ENTR 110 Creativity & Idea Development and in this semester's Business Model Competition proposed Sharky's Cycles which the judges really encouraged her to launch. Whether growing young entrepreneurs for the Baltimore metro area or the mid-Atlantic region, TU is having an impact.”