For the first time in its eight-year history, the University of Utah Center for Medical Innovation's Bench-to-Bedside (B2B) annual competition included one high school—Rowland Hall. The program has spawned over 150 new health-care technologies and is designed to introduce medical, engineering, and business students to the world of medical-device innovation.
The opportunity for Rowland Hall students to participate in B2B arose when the center reached out to local high schools. Rowland Hall jumped at the chance—and jumped high enough to win the Best Young Entrepreneur Award worth $500 at B2B April 3, and one of three grand prizes worth $5,000 each at the High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge (HSUEC) April 15.
It all began six months ago when Rowland Hall students formed two teams for an Upper School seminar class. Seminar Advisor and Upper School Assistant Principal Dave Samson (along with Director of Curriculum and Instruction Wendell Thomas) said the two teams of students supported each other throughout the year and in February began to focus their efforts solely on their own groups. In April, the Rowland Hall students and 34 teams of university students—including college students, graduate students, and medical students and residents—presented their projects at the Utah State Capitol Rotunda to a panel of judges, including experts in medicine, media, engineering, and business.
The Rowland Hall teams—one team of five students, and one team of three students—masterminded two distinctive, compelling projects.
ColoClean won the B2B Best Young Entrepreneur Award and the HSUEC Grand Prize. According to the team, "ColoClean is a smarter, safer colonoscopy prep that provides patients of all backgrounds with an effective, humane, personalized colonoscopy prep kit." Team members: Tobi Yoon, Chloe Fleischer, Emilie Orfanakis, Eli Taylor, and Eleanor Mancheski.
The ARC Brace targets compression to reduce swelling while increasing support and stability, all without heavy metallic-hinge "exoskeletons." Combined into one smart device, the ARC Brace efficiently pumps air to specific zones in milliseconds, reducing long recovery periods from serious joint injuries and alleviating pain during recovery. Team members: Courtney McCabe, Josh Nkoy, and Elena Zipp.
Mr. Samson said our young innovators spoke confidently about their products at B2B and represented Rowland Hall well. "Although only one team won, all the students were incredibly impressive on competition night," he said. "Both groups worked hard and hopefully got a sense of what it takes to start your own company."
ColoClean's Best Young Entrepreneur Award at B2B motivated that team to enter HSUEC, a competition managed by the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, a division of the David Eccles School of Business. Almost 150 high school teams from across the state entered the challenge and ColoClean was one of 24 teams selected to participate in the final round. The team presented to the panel of judges and won one of three grand prizes worth $5,000.
These competitions present opportunities for our students to learn from and network with other students, innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists, faculty, lawyers, and other top professionals in the local health and tech industries.
Senior Tobi Yoon said competing in Bench to Bedside ignited her newfound passion for entrepreneurship. "Leading ColoClean taught me leadership skills, collaborative skills, and most importantly, a passion to succeed as a young entrepreneur," Tobi said. "Bench to Bedside started becoming less of an academic pursuit for me, and more of a career-oriented stepping stone."
The Upper School seminar class format fit the B2B concept, providing a forum for self-motivated students to investigate in-depth ideas in small groups. B2B asks students to identify an unmet clinical need and form a startup company. Each team is allotted a $500 budget with access through the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute to resources and professional consultants. Students must evaluate intellectual property, work under real-life regulatory requirements, and construct a business plan to design and build a prototype that solves the clinical need.
Mr. Samson said our upper schoolers attended university lectures alongside older pupils, which added to our students' excitement of preparing for competition night. Another way to increase support for next year's B2B and HSUEC teams, the assistant principal said, would be to enlist parent volunteers as consultants.
An impressive list of Rowland Hall graduates who have matriculated to the University of Utah have participated in B2B. Kapil Sharma '12, who is completing a bioengineering master's degree this year, served as the 2017 B2B co-president. Joseph Illingworth '11 manages the B2B teams' progress and guides them through the six-month timeline.
Kapil and Joseph joined forces on a B2B team this year with two fellow students (bioengineering graduate student James Morgan and medical student Brian Kirk) and won the Best in Business award ($5,000) for their EZ Heme monitor that aims to noninvasively diagnose anemia.
"It was a brilliant idea to invite high school students to our B2B competition this year," Kapil said. "They brought a new energy to our program." Both of the Rowland Hall teams impressed Kapil and his colleagues, he added. "They were by far in the top tier of teams in our pool this year and it clearly showed at the competition night. We are definitely planning on having high school students, especially Rowland Hall, compete in this next round of B2B."