Four male and one female student pose for a picture.

Students Win with BIG Ideas

The Kennemer Center for Innovation and Social Impact within UA’s Honors College announced the winners of its second annual BIG Ideas Contest during a recent awards dinner.

BIG Ideas is an entry-level program that encourages students with limited or no competition experience to develop ideas, transform their thinking and address societal problems through creativity and ingenuity. 

Participants are provided advisors and mentors as well as opportunities to engage with seasoned entrepreneurs. Students are offered workshops on topics like budgets and timelines, intellectual property and corporate structure to aid them on their entrepreneurial journey. 

The overall winning team, StudyBuddy, competed in the education and the arts track and earned $3,000. The teams that won their respective tracks – Fooder (technology), VARA (health and well-being) and Crimson Carpool (energy and transportation) — each earned $2,500.

BIG Ideas Silver and Bronze Awards were also named, with Rising Tides Foundation and PrepAI winning those awards, respectively. The BIG Ideas Best Video Award went to Chat Chair and Neptune Foil Co. earned the BIG Ideas Team Excellence Award.

Each team was led by an Honors College student and consisted of three to five UA undergraduates and/or Stillman College Honors students competing in the four tracks mentioned above.

Teams began pitching their innovative solutions to the BIG Idea panel in November and the teams chosen to move forward then started a rigorous proposal and evaluation process in January.

Over the last few months, the teams had to complete the required contest assignments, including creating pre-proposals/videos and final proposals/videos. Judging was finalized on April 11.

“All the BIG Ideas participants are winners because they sharpened their presentation and teamwork skills, learned from top-notch mentors, successful entrepreneurs and subject matter experts and experienced taking an idea from conception to reality,” said Gordon Martin, director of the Kennemer Center for Innovation and Social Impact.

Top Prize Winners

StudyBuddy is an educational tool that provides a personalized AI tutor for elementary students. (Andrès Calderòn, Arden Markin, Taylor Schnorbus, Malachi Crain, Adam Nguyen)

Fooder is an innovative framework to empower food rescue everywhere. (Emma Cabage, Truman Porter, David Anderson)

VARA (Vision Aid in Rural Alabama) is a low-cost, high-impact approach that aims to address the gap of pediatric vision care in rural Alabama. (Addison Henninger, Will Cain, Gabriella Gaston, Gil Ward, Taylor Sheffield)

Crimson Carpool is a student-based rideshare app that aims to make long-distance travel more convenient and accessible. (Monica Lopez, Ian Hobbs, Joslyn Bullington)

Rising Tides will source caps and gowns and sell them at a reasonable markup. (Raj Patel, Andrew Bailey)

PrepAI decreases the amount of time teachers must spend on work outside of the classroom through an AI-powered platform aimed at providing teachers with assistance in lesson planning, idea generation and curriculum alignment. (Emily Otter, Ethan Nguyen, Cade Sweeney)

Chat Chair is a public space designed to offer emotional regulation and stress management techniques and practices free of charge to all. (Chris Rasmussen, Matthew Snyder, Titus Franklin, Rowan Morris)

Neptune Foil Co. manufactures hydrofoils that are an evolution of watercraft on the same scale as maglev trains to steam engines — faster, less drag, and higher efficiency. (Colton Byrne, Ramsey Ponchaud, Hunter Stepanovich)