Winning Teams of the 2024 OPENminds Innovator Showcase

We are excited to announce that three VentureWell E-Team Program grantees have been named winners of the 2024 OPENminds Innovator Showcase: Car Seat Companion from Elizabeth City State University, WAVED Medical from the University of Maine, and U-Care from Texas A&M University!

Taking home a combined prize pool of $7,000, these exceptional teams presented their innovations and practiced their pitches during this signature event that concluded the OPEN conference. Attendees—who included hundreds of leaders in the STEM fields—were asked to “invest” up to $3 million “Venture Bucks” in the team whose invention they found most promising. “This event is an excellent opportunity for student innovators,” said VentureWell Program Officer Sarah Wharmby. “They receive direct, in-the-moment feedback from innovation & entrepreneurship educators and engage in dynamic professional development. It’s one of our most popular events at OPEN every year—for both participants and attendees.”

Car Seat Companion from Elizabeth City State University secured the most audience investment, winning the $4,000 Audience Choice Prize—first place! The team participated in the Summer 2023 cohort of the E-Team Program, completing Pioneer (Stage One) while also taking on a competition led by the HBCU Founders Initiative, a founding partner of our Equity Ecosystem Partner Network. Their invention, aimed at reducing child hot-car deaths, uses a Bluetooth-enabled pad that fits underneath a child in a car. The pad sends an alert to a parent or guardian via smartphone to notify them that a child is still in their car seat if the adult gets more than five meters away. Check out the team’s winning pitch:

Second Place—and $2,000 in prize money—went to WAVED Medical from the University of Maine. The team first participated in the I-Corps™ program, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), before moving on to complete both the Pioneer (Stage One) Winter 2023 and Propel (Stage Two) Spring 2023 cohorts of the E-Team Program. They also received a 2023 Qualcomm Innovator Stipend in support of their innovation: image-based algorithm technology that identifies areas of high risk for patients who are more likely to develop breast cancer. This will identify more patients who could benefit from preventative care. Review the team’s winning pitch:

U-Care from Texas A&M University won Third Place, which includes a $1,000 prize. The team has participated in both the NSF-funded I-Corps™ program as well as I-Corps™ at the National Institutes of Health. Their invention is a reusable biosensor that detects ions based on changes in electrical currents, notifying users if a catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) is present. Too often, CAUTIs in older people are misdiagnosed, leading to hospitalization, sepsis, and even death; this invention helps prevent misdiagnoses. Check out the team’s winning pitch:

We congratulate the teams on their OPENminds 2024 success, and we can’t wait to see what’s next!

About the E-Team Program

The E-Team Program, part of the VentureWell Accelerator, supports dedicated science- and engineering-based student teams from across the nation in bringing their high-impact innovation out of the lab and into the market.

Through the E-Team Program, we have trained over 560+ student teams and more than 1,400 student innovators. Our teams have raised $480+ million in follow-on funding and have launched 240+ ventures since taking part in our program.

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