Xiaomeng Fang of NAFC lulu egames

{{ story.headline }}

{{ story.subheading }}

{{ story.timestamp }}

Each year young, driven entrepreneurial students compete in the NC State Lulu eGames. Held each spring, the event serves as an opportunity for students considering entrepreneurship to test the viability of their innovative ideas in a competition format. 
 
The eGames had five categories this year, including the typical New Venture, Design and Prototype and Arts Feasibility Study, as well as two new additions, The Daugherty Endowment and B Corp Champions. 
 
With the competition as close as ever this year, I wanted to highlight a few of the winners and ambitious startup ideas ready to make a difference in the world. 
 

Trakex 

One of the competition’s biggest winners was the team of two engineers behind Trakex. The team won first place and the Judges’ Choice award in the New Venture Challenge as well as second in the Design and Prototype Challenge. 

Seniors Moaad Benkaraache, an industrial and systems engineering major, and Tayyab Hussain, who’s studying chemical engineering, have developed technology that measures the dimensions and weight of cargo as it is loaded onto trailers. With the use of 3D sensor technology, the team wants to be able to measure the cargo that is loaded into trucks, thus helping to optimize available space and profit margins. 

In an NC State sustainability articleBenkaraache said that almost 25 percent of trucks on the highway are empty and an additional 36 percent are underutilized. If Trakex can help decrease that wasted trailer space by just half, they estimate they can decrease emissions by 100 million tons each year.
 
Benkaraache first learned of the major problems and lack of efficiency in the shipping industry from his father’s experiences as a truck driver. 

Trakex wins lulu eGames 2016
Trakex wins the Lulu eGames' New Venture Challenge. Credit: Becky Kirkland, NC State Communication Services

SMSmart 

This team won both first place and the Judges’ Choice award in the Design and Prototype challenge. 
 
SMSmart is an application that gives users access to their favorite mobiles apps without requiring a 4G or wifi connection. The startup and its founder Joyce Yu have already been featured in Techcrunch and Gizmodo for its ambitious goals of providing access in areas lacking data coverage. 

According to Yu, a student in NC State’s statistics doctoral program, “The app, available only on Android today, works by mapping every user query into a structured text message. When received, the application renders the messages into an appropriate user interface.” 
 
Based on their preliminary research,the team believes its method of rendering data and customized human-readable schema is novel and patentable. The big vision for SMSmart is to provide access to parts of the world that do not have access to wi-fi. The startup could be another option alongside Google’s Project Loon, in an effort to provide more internet access across the globe. 

Joyce Yu SMSmart
Joyce Yu is founder of SMSmart, a 2016 Lulu eGames winner. Credit: Becky Kirkland, NC State Communication Services

Nonwoven Air Filtration Curtain (NAFC) 

The eGames debuted a new B-Corp Champions Challenge meant to showcase students with a vision for a new venture with social or environmental impact. NAFC won first place in the category as well as the fan favorite video. 
 
The startup is made up of a team of four international students who met through a textiles class. Their invention is a filter that looks like a window curtain but that traps hazardous chemicals in the air before they enter a home. When a window is open, the filter acts as a barrier while still allowing a cool breeze to enter the home. 

Filters are made of a lightweight engineered fabric meant to be affordable so it is accessible to low-income families in cities with severe air pollution. 

Founders are Sumit Phalak, a graduate research assistant at NC State’s Nonwovens Institute from India, and Samaneh Mohseni of Iran, Yasar Kiyak of Turkey and Xiaomeng Fang (pictured top), all of whom are PhD candidates studying fiber and polymer science. 
 

Smart Material Solutions, LLC. (SMS) 

Stephen Furst, an NC State graduate and founder of Smart Material Solutions, won the second of the new additions to the eGames, the Daugherty Endowment Challenge. This challenge was created for entrepreneurs that have licensed NC State intellectual property in the previous three years. 
 
The problem Furst is looking to solve is the lack of scalable manufacturing options for nanoscale features, which are smaller than the wavelength of light and used for research in academia. Possible applications are anti-glare and anti-reflective surfaces on items like eye glasses, laptop and smartphones, anti-fogging windshields and self-cleaning windows. 

The next step for SMS, which is partnered with NC State’s Precision Engineering Consortium, is to apply for two major grants to expand business development, pay for licensing costs, attend trade shows and prepare for the Phase II proposal. 

Bark

What if there was a way to allow your dog to roam free & exercise while you socialize with friends over a beer? 
 
The New Venture Challenge winners behind Bark are working to make that a reality. Automation and electrical engineers John Ritter and Shaunak Turaga partnered up with graphic designer Clara MacDonell to dream up “Raleigh’s first bar with indoor and outdoor options for dogs to interact and enjoy themselves off-leash.” 
 
The restaurant will have three distinct areas –– a bar, patio and yard. Dogs will have to remain on leash in the bar and patio but are free to roam in the yard, which will be monitored by trained Bark yard monitors. To get access to the yard, owners can buy a $5 per day pass, a $15 monthly pass, or a $120 yearly pass. Members ensure that all dogs are current on shots and agree to follow a set of rules. They also get access to special events. 

With more than 45 percent of Raleigh families with dogs as pets, the trio thinks it’s on to something. 

SnapSafe

Safety has become more of a concern in the wake of recent national and global events. The team of four behind the “fan favorite video” in the New Venture Challenge cleverly displayed the need for a wristband that can alert 911 in an emergency situation. 
 
The four-month-old venture is led by four sophomore engineers, David Tillack (mechanical), Stephen Scheuerle (aerospace), Ryan Cavanagh (chemical) & Brendan Boyle (biological). They’re developing a customizable smart wristband that when broken will direct your phone to alert a dispatch service. 
 
Each year, roughly 240 million 911 phone calls are placed, but many more aren’t placed because people in danger lack covert calling options. 

SnapSafe lets people get help discretely. The team is targeting three types of customers for their technology: Parents with children who have just gotten into college, technology-inclined elderly who don’t want the pricey fees associated with Life Alert and active lifestyle enthusiasts like runners, rock climbers or cyclists. 
 
Tillack says the initial kit will be priced below $100, with the option to purchase additional affordable bracelets.