GVSU students win Michigan Collegiate Innovative Prize competition

Group takes home first place and $20,000

By Peter Chhum | 2/26/14 6:24pm


Courtesy / Kathryn Christopher

After a six-month intensive program, five Grand Valley State University students competed in the Michigan Collegiate Innovative Prize competition on Feb. 14. They didn’t just compete, though — they took first place in the undergraduate category and earned $20,000.

The MCIP is a training program that grooms students from having an idea to launching that idea into their own business in just six months. The GVSU team consisted of three engineering students (Kathryn Christopher, Andrew VanDyke and Leah Bauer) and two business students (Brittany Taylor and Briauna Taylor). The students formed Fluition LLC.

The team created the “Sit-to-Stand Transfer Device.” The wining design is intended to help patients in Intensive Care Units by making the process of standing up and sitting down much easier.

“Unlike current devices, our prototype gives feedback to the medical staff for tracking patient progress,” Christopher said. “The design of our device decreases patient recovery times, is easier for medical staff to use and only requires one medical staff member to operate instead of two, which saves money for everyone involved.”

What originally began as a project for their engineering class ended up having a much greater effect.

”We knew that the need was real. When (the group) talked to physical therapists, they said this is where the problem is. If they came up with a solution, it would have wider implications than just a class project,” said John Farris, a professor of engineering at GVSU. “They were a very motivated group, a very self-directed team, and because it worked out so well, I encouraged them to take it to the contest.”

MCIP blends the areas of engineering and business along with technology and forces students to develop an idea into a business plan.

“Our sponsors were two therapists from Spectrum Health’s Intensive Care Unit who were unhappy with the way their current sit-to-stand devices worked. After visiting the Intensive Care Unit and watching several sessions with patients, we were able to come up with a solution,” Christopher said.

The MCIP competition was an extensive process that began in October and ran through mid-February. The contest began by interviewing 90. From there, only 29 were accepted into the competition.

Throughout the six months, teams were required to complete assignments and readings, presentations and research. They then were charged with creating business plans and a prototype, and then speaking to more than 100 potential customers to get feedback on their ideas.

“Talking to the many contacts, investor capitalists and competition judges really propelled me into a world that I was previously unfamiliar with,” Briauna Taylor said. “The MCIP competition, itself, walked us through everything you needed to know to start and run a business and how to effectively communicate.”

Fluition LLC beat out teams from more than 16 colleges and universities, including Wayne State University, Michigan Technological University and Kettering University.

“After the announcement we won came the shock and elation,” Briauna said. “The competition was so tough. Many of the groups already had sales, customers and final prototypes. A lot of teams had been working with an idea for years. We had worked so hard in such a short period of time to overcome these obstacles. This was the first competition we had entered, and throughout the process the idea grew, and we grew as a team. It was amazing to get the feedback that we did from the MCIP judges and panel.”

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