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Seton Hill Students Among Finalists in National E-Fest® Business Plan Competition

Student team will present idea for device meant to curb unattended child deaths in vehicles

March 14, 2017

Seton Hill Students Among Finalists in National E-Fest® Business Plan Competition

A team of four Seton Hill University students is among the 25 finalists in the E-Fest® Business Plan Competition and will travel to Minneapolis in April to compete for $250,000 in prizes.

The Seton Hill team will be competing against teams from among the top-ranked colleges and universities for entrepreneurship programs across the country, including Babson College, Johns Hopkins University, NC State, the University of Wisconsin, Drexel University, the University of Florida and Auburn University.  

E-Fest®, sponsored by the Richard M. Schulze School of Entrepreneurship and by EIX.org, a non-profit online platform for entrepreneurship education, will be held April 6 to 8 at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota and will include a competition among the 25 student teams to determine the best business plan as well as seminars on entrepreneurship.

The Seton Hill team, consisting of students Fitzgerald Robertson, a senior business major from Brooklyn, N.Y.; Austin Sheridan, a senior business major from New Brighton, Pa.; Melanie Ansell, of Derry, Pa., a senior majoring in business in Seton Hill’s Adult Degree Program; and Dhiraj Totwani, a senior graphic design major from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, was selected as a finalist from among 141 entrants.

Their business idea for Sensor4Safe, a device that alerts drivers if a child or pet is left behind in a vehicle, was among three Seton Hill student team entries into the competition from Assistant Professor of Business Lyzona Marshall’s Seminar for Entrepreneurs course. 

“Seton Hill University is committed to encouraging entrepreneurship among students, particularly through the Wukich Center for Entrepreneurial Opportunities.  The on-campus Center provides guidance to students in developing business plans,” said Mary C. Finger, Ed.D., Seton Hill President. “We are pleased that Fitzgerald, Austin, Melanie and Dhiraj will represent Seton Hill at the national competition, and we wish them the best as they present their business plan for a critically important product to a wide audience.”

“Seton Hill students have a passion for entrepreneurship that they take beyond the classroom,” said Lyzona Marshall, who is also a business counselor for Seton Hill’s Wukich Center and will serve as the team’s advisor in Minnesota. “They have worked diligently while developing the plan for Sensor4Safe, so it was gratifying as a professor to notify them of the opportunity to compete on a national stage. Seton Hill is very fortunate to have dedicated faculty and staff who assist and support students' ideas and to have students willing to take a chance on themselves. I am honored to join our students on this journey.”

In January, Seton Hill received a $2,500 grant that Marshall applied for from E-Fest® to develop teams to participate in the E-Fest® Business Plan Competition. 

The teams in Marshall’s class worked to develop business plans over a two-week period, competing against each other for the opportunity to submit to the national competition.

The Sensor4Safe team developed a business plan for a device that uses sensors measuring motion, temperature, sound and weight to send alerts to a mobile phone app that tells drivers that they have left a child in a vehicle and can let them know if the temperature is unsafe for a pet that is in the vehicle.

“When Professor Marshall told us we had to create a new product in the span of two weeks, our team, which includes students of different ages, ethnic backgrounds and genders, decided to look at where there is a need,” said Melanie Ansell. “I’m a grandmother and seeing the news stories of children left to die in vehicles is something that hits me personally. We’ve developed a product that can make a meaningful impact on someone’s life, and I cannot wait to present it at E-Fest® in April.”

“Our inspiration came from the simple yet scary statistic that 38 children die each year from being left in a car. This is 100% preventable and our product was made to take that number down to zero,” added Austin Sheridan. “We wanted to create something that changed lives and allowed children to grow up and have the same opportunities we all have.”

E-Fest® will feature workshops, an Innovation Challenge and keynote speeches from Richard Schulze, who is founder and chairman emeritus of Best Buy, Inc., and "Shark Tank" regular Daymond John, founder of FUBU. The 25 student teams will receive $2,000 travel stipends and hotel will be provided. 

The teams with the three best business ideas will receive $100,000, $50,000 and $25,000 in prizes, with an additional $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500 in grants going to their universities to support entrepreneurship education. A Friday night Innovation Challenge will award $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 in scholarships to student teams who develop the best solution to a business problem unveiled that night.