HS Entrepreneurs Wow Contest Judges at Pitch Competition

Hospitalized for a week with a rare stomach and intestinal disorder in the days leading up to a competition she’d spent months preparing for, Ursuline Academy junior Caroline Randolph almost didn’t make it to Saturday’s Diamond Challenge.

Randolph and teammates Grace Nkurunziza and Elle Jerry were poised to present their entrepreneurial pitch for the G.I. Spy App — a new app that would offer a more accurate and convenient way to manage gastrointestinal diseases afflicting adolescents.

The competition, developed by the University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship Education Program and managed by the Delaware Youth Leadership Network, aims to inspire and recognize the spirit of entrepreneurship in high school students.

The event was scheduled to kick off Saturday morning at CSC’s headquarters in Greenville. But on Tuesday, Randolph still had not been cleared to go home or return to school. “I was sitting in the hospital bed thinking, ‘How am I, as team captain, going to put the finishing touches on our PowerPoint presentation? And what if I am too sick to present?'”

 

But Randolph’s health did improve. And not only did she and her teammates pull their notes together, they tied for first place and earned the opportunity to present in the final round of the Diamond Challenge for High School Entrepreneurs competition in April.

The three Ursuline teammates developed a business concept that was based on Randolph’s own personal experience. She was diagnosed with eosinophilic gastroenteritis last spring. Standing before a panel of judges, Randolph opened their presentation with, “I’m living a life with severe, chronic abdominal pain. Standing here is not something I take for granted.”

Randolph sees doctors all the time and has tried a variety of ways to keep track of her symptoms and reactions to food. Elimination diets haven’t worked, and she says keeping a journal isn’t always accurate and is hard to do, especially for younger children and busy teenagers. “There’s no convenient way to log pain triggers, food intake, stool and medication. Our G.I. Spy app is a sort tool that will revolutionize medicine,” she said.

Designed by a patient, their app is visual and easy to use. An avatar spins so kids can pinpoint the exact point and type of pain.  And it has emojis for describing the severity of pain, like lightning bolts for shooting pain and fire for burning pain.

Their interviews with doctors at A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children and CHOP, who told the Ursuline students the tool would be ‘enormously beneficial’ to their patients, helped provide some of the qualitative data Diamond Challenge judges were looking for. Grace Nkurunziza said, “We plan to work in collaboration with doctors and patients to locate a trigger within 3-6 months — a quarter of the time the elimination diet would take to locate triggers.”

 

The Diamond Challenge that took place on February 23rd was one of 36 semi-final competitions taking place this month around the globe. 

Delaware Youth Leadership Network supports the Diamond Challenge

This was the first year students with the Delaware Youth Leadership Network assisted the University of Delaware with their two-pronged ‘Business Innovation’ and ‘Social Innovation’ pitch competition. The DYLN students coordinated all of the event logistics — from lining up a dozen judges, to coordinating teams’ attendance and presentations, and tabulating the feedback of judges.

Four of the 17 teams traveled from out of state to compete. But all four winning teams – two from each Innovation division – were in fact from Delaware.

Congratulations Rohan Kanchana and Noah Rossi, students at Newark Charter, who won with their Ground Up Computer Science idea. Noting a lack of computer science classes across all division levels of school, the pair launched a summer program for kids in 4th through 8th grades five years ago, which they hope to expand with partners and access to funding.

A vision to help homeless parents and their children

TeenSHARP Delaware scholars Jah’sima Cooper, a junior at Christiana High School, and Siawaa Antwi, a senior at Freire Charter School, share a vision to help homeless single mothers with children.

They won with their pitch to create an apartment complex with a streamlined application process that includes life coaching for the mothers to help them transition out of homelessness.

They call their business concept Ikigai, Japanese for ‘a reason for being.’ Unlike other short-term shelters, Ikigai will offer families the dignity of private rooms and up to six months of housing. Life transition coaching for the moms will be mandatory.

Both students have first-hand experience with homelessness.

Jah’sima and her mother and younger brother were homeless for three years. After losing their house, Jah’sima’s family went from staying in motels, to sleeping in their car for a year, to no shelter at all. “I have seen my mom call shelter after shelter for days just to get the same response that there were no beds available,” she said.

Siawaa’s family has been struggling with homelessness since 2012.  But a bright note in her story is that she’ll be starting at Bryn Mawr College later this year on a full scholarship, thanks to her hard work as a student and the efforts of TeenSHARP.

Megan Chen and Kelly Wang, students at Newark Charter, also won in the semi-final round with their invention called BioSpork – a creative solution to the waste often caused by imperfect produce.  Their biodegradable plastic-like product turns produce that consumers would normally discard into an easy to use utensil. 

All four of the Delaware teams will compete at the Diamond Challenge Summit April 13-15 at University of Delaware’s Clayton Hall. 


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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of TownSquareDelaware.com, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.