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Two Teams Named Kaylie Entrepreneurship Prize Winners

Members of the two winning teams for the first annual Kaylie Prize for Entrepreneurship flank City College of New York President Lisa Staiano-Coico and competition benefactor Harvey Kaylie, '60.

Two student teams were chosen as winners of The City College of New York’s first annual Kaylie Prize for Entrepreneurship.  CCNY alumnus and award benefactor Harvey Kaylie, EE ’60, announced the surprise decision, which was made by a five-member panel of judges, following final presentations by five teams on Tuesday, May 10.

“Stoke Innovation” took top honors.  Composed of four graduate physics students and an undergraduate electrical engineering major, it is developing an affordable, non-invasive device for instant cancer detection through light analysis.  Team members are James Scholtz, Denis Sharoukhov, Laura Sordillo, Giovanni Milione and Wayne Parkinson.  Dr. Robert Alfano, distinguished professor of science and engineering, is the team adviser.  

The group developed a low-cost, compact, modular system to beam light at tissues via thin bundles of fibers and collect it within the same bundle for non-invasive diagnosis of various diseases.  The instrument measures the “Stokes shift,” a difference in light measured between a standard and the target tissue or material.

Initially their business model was constrained by the need for a $10,000 piece of equipment.  Consequently, the cash-limited students designed an alternative device costing less than $800. “We were forced to innovate due to financial circumstances,” said Mr. Scholtz, the team leader.

“Dynamic Braille,” an all-freshman team, captured second place with their low-cost electronic Braille interface.  Team members are Joseph Borrello, Jeremy Cortez, Sullivan Fleming, Sankha Ghatak, and Nick Macaluso.  Dr. Ilona Kretzschmar, associate professor of chemical engineering, is the team adviser.

Their entry used opposing electrical charges to distort a thin polymer film.  The team envisions a field of “Braille cells,” each made up of six tiny pins that would touch the film from below to create a raised pattern of dots to form Braille letters.  The resulting e-reader-like device for the blind could display a page worth of refreshable digital text, much as a Kindle or Nook functions for the sighted.

“As a team of freshmen, this has opened a huge door for our careers,” said Mr. Cortez.  Both teams secured financial support and housing for the summer to further develop their products.  In addition, they will work in CCNY’s new InnoLab, a Silicon Valley garage-like workspace created to support such efforts.  

The students’ tremendous performance “shows that whatever limits you have, it’s always possible to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” said Mr. Kaylie before announcing the winners.  The competition has added a new dimension to the students’ education and elevated the school, he added.

“This is a truly unique opportunity to let every student take the driver’s seat.,” said City College Assistant Professor Dr. Dan Steingart, assistant professor of chemical engineering, who served as faculty advisor to the students and organized and supervised the competition.

In early February, five finalists for the competition were picked from 35 entrants.  At the May 10 event, they demonstrated their prototypes and presented business proposals to the judges:

Alicia Gibb, director of research and development, Bug Labs.

Christine Ho, a co-founder of Imprint Energy.

Jon Santiago, co-founder of THINK.

Rob Faludi, director of user experience at Tendril Inc.

Harvey Kaylie, founder and president of Mini-Circuits.

The panel questioned presenters closely and then deliberated for 40 minutes in sequestration while a dinner was held nearby for contestants, CCNY officials and invited guests.  After concluding their deliberations, the judges emerged to announce the winners.

“Everyone who participated is a winner,” said Mr. Kaylie.  “My satisfaction is seeing their ideas in front of me.  Taking a creative idea that’s in your mind and transferring it into something real is an amazing accomplishment.”
“These are risky ventures, but students can learn a lot from this,” said Professor Steingart. “Even if it doesn’t work out, they will have become assets to any lab or company they work for.”

In November 2010 Mr. Kaylie established the $3 million endowment to support the prize at City College.  His company, Mini-Circuits, is a Brooklyn-based RF and microwave electronic components design, manufacture and distribution enterprise.  Established in 1969, the company has grown into a global leader in RF, IF and microwave components for commercial, industrial, space and military applications.

The three other finalist teams, their members and product ideas were:

Cable Inspecting Robots: Denis Arce, Rachel M. Lovell, Shiraz Macuff and Kenshin Ushiroda; robots that climb bridges to detect corrosion and failure points while reducing worker injuries.  Dr. John (Jizhong) Xiao, associate professor of electrical engineering, advised the team. Arber Ruci, Ariel Terefici, Arijon Xhelo, Edina Bektesevic and Jonida Xhaferaj; web-based virtual study group software already in use at City College.

MedMobileBP: Satadru Pramanik, Mohammod Arafat, Fidaali Udawala, Khrisendat Persaud, Gerardo Sevilla and Antonio Jou; cell-phone medical diagnostics using the Android operating system, with a key component costing tens to thousands of times less than that of existing competitors.



Jessa Netting
p: 212.650.5310