Over the last decade, the USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase has handed out nearly $150,000 in USC-sponsored awards. Winning teams in the student business competition have used the funding — and the experience of participating in the event — to propel their businesses forward.

Hosted by the USC Stevens Center for Innovation, the 11th annual showcase found 24 teams of young entrepreneurs competing for over $30,000 in awards to further their inventions and startup ideas.

Six teams won awards on Oct. 13, including two prizes worth $10,000.

The 2017 winners represented six USC schools, with innovators in engineering and medicine, media, social enterprise and the environment, and consumer products.


Caring for infants

The winner of the $10,000 USC Stevens Breakthrough Innovation Award was Carbon Thumbprint, a startup led by Health, Technology and Engineering (HTE@USC) students from the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Carbon Thumbprint is developing a carbon dioxide monitor that could improve the way hospitals care for premature and critically ill infants.

Team members said they plan to use the funds to develop prototypes of their device and carry out trials in hopes of validating their ideas before moving into a clinical setting.

“This competition taught us how important it is to be well-versed in the fields in which we are innovating, and it has certainly helped us improve our ability to communicate our ideas to anyone willing to listen,” said team leader Saif Ali Azam, a medical student at the Keck School.


Additional awards

EventAll, an online platform involving mobile apps, earned a $10,000 award for Best Business Concept, a prize sponsored by the Diem Shotwell Metcalfe Family Fund of the USC Marshall School of Business.

The project was led by Alvin Liang, a music industry and business entrepreneurship student at the USC Thornton School of Music. His team included students from USC Marshall and the USC School of Architecture.

In another award, the International Student Environmental Coalition won $5,000 for the Daniel Floersheimer Global Impact prize going to the most innovative project solving social or environmental issues. The coalition is working on a nonprofit model that empowers students to advocate for “climate justice.”

The coalition plans to use the funding to expand its Plant for the Planet program in Nigeria, said Kayla Soren, an international relations and environmental studies student who founded the coalition.

Vibraille, which provides a device for the deaf and visually impaired that converts text from a computer or phone to a Braille-like format, won the $2,500 Most Potentially Disruptive award. Sponsored by the USC Marshall Center for Global Innovation, the prize honors the project most likely to completely transform its marketplace by making previous solutions obsolete.

Lahtt Sauce, an all-purpose chili oil sauce startup, won the $2,500 Lloyd Greif Center Venture Validation Award earned by a project that has gained the most market traction, including investment, funding and marketing. Made with a blend of simple ingredients, the sauce is ideal for dipping, stir-fry and marinade, offering a convenient solution for cooking authentic Asian dishes at home.

MedMind won $1,600 for the Trojan Family Choice Award, the prize determined by a popular vote among event attendees. The project’s team of USC Viterbi and Keck School students has developed an app that makes it easier for cancer patients to manage their drugs and side effects.


Pep talk

The showcase featured a talk by Rohit Shukla, CEO and founder of Larta Institute, a Los Angeles-based technology accelerator that helps companies commercialize their innovations.

“If you’re an entrepreneur facing the unexpected, surround yourself with people who will bolster you,” Shukla told the entrepreneurs.

Jennifer Dyer, executive director of the USC Stevens Center for Innovation, congratulated the competitors.

“They exemplify the strong innovation and entrepreneurial culture at USC,” she said.

The USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase is the annual flagship event of the USC Stevens Center for Innovation, which aims to turn USC research into products for public benefit through licensing, collaborations and the promotion of entrepreneurship and innovation.

— Peijean Tsai