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UMKC Law Team Wins Regnier Venture Creation Challenge

Two UMKC School of Law teams came in first and second place in the recent Regnier Venture Creation Challenge, in the division of Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation. The Challenge is a two-day business plan and speed pitch competition promoting entrepreneurship and new venture development for university students in Missouri and Kansas and current Entrepreneurship Scholars. The competition, underwritten by a generous gift to the University of Missouri – Kansas City by the Regnier Family Foundations, is designed to encourage venture creation through a forum in which students and program participants can present new venture concepts to local investors, business leaders, mentors and judges.

Kam Eaken (J.D./MBA ’17), Fatuma Kelleh (J.D. ’18), and Lischen Reeves (J.D. ’18) came in first place. The team designed a business plan for Professor Chi-Ming Huang’s invention, SeudoSkull, a head-impact sensor designed to reduce youth sports-related concussions and injuries. Huang is an associate professor of physiology and neurobiology at UMKC.

The SeudoSkull has been structured into two phases. The first phase, referred to as alpha, measures the threshold of any hit, utilizes artificial intelligence, and stores data about the player. Individuals all have different concussion thresholds, and concussions can cause longer-lasting problems in children and cause issues in their brain development.

“With SeudoSkull,” Reeves says, “the player, the coach, and the parents will have all this data to help them make informed decisions about the player’s relationship with sports.”

1.6 – 3.8 million people suffer sports-related injuries and some concussions go completely undetected. This sensor hopes to change those numbers. The sensor is designed to protect young athletes who have developing muscles and bones who, hopefully, have a long career ahead of them.

The second phrase, referred to as omega, does everything alpha does, except omega warns the athlete before s/he is struck.

“It activates proprietary linkage elements,” Reeves said. To simplify, the sensor regulates the athlete’s movements so the athlete can avoid successive hits. It also helps to stiffen the neck to help keep bones aligned after impact.

“It also warns the athlete to change his position before he is hit,” Kelleh added.

Reeves points out that this sensor could change how parents make decisions about their children engaging in sports. When the athlete reaches junior high or high school, they will be able to make better decisions, based off the data from SeudoSkull, about whether it is wise to continue to let their child play.

Both teams who placed were in the interdisciplinary course Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation. The course is offered by UMKC Law and the Henry W. Bloch School of Management, taught by Professors Tony Mendez and Tony Luppino. Students are divided into groups of three, usually with one MBA student, one law student, and one engineering student. Community partners pitch projects to the students, who then choose which projects they would like to undertake. From there, they develop business plans to showcase the projects. Each week in the class, they turn in a piece of the business plan until it is completed.

Reeves and Kelleh emphasized that the class was demanding and time-consuming, but it provided an outlet for entrepreneurial law students who had a knack for understanding and helping corporations. Reeves also said it challenged her to think about how she could lend her legal skills to a corporation.

“It also taught us to know our client’s product,” Kelleh said, “because if you don’t know that, how are you going to help them?”

Jessie Colonna (J.D. ’17), Jordan Fears (MBA), and Tanner Rohrer (J.D. ’17) came in second place in the challenge. Whereas the first place team built a business plan around a product that was already created, this team worked conceptually. Children’s Mercy Hospital pitched the idea of the “Aware Bear” to the class after a team of burn unit nurses came up with the idea. The Aware Bear would be a stuffed animal, mimicking the mold of a Build-A-Bear, with smoke detector and a voice recording of the parent to guide children out of a house fire.  

Colonna explained that the high fatality of children between the ages of three and nine occurs when children hide out of fear from a fire, rather than finding their way out of the situation.

“Aware Bear is something a child can relate to and it would make it a more controlled situation,” Colonna said.

Children’s Mercy Hospital offered a rough prototype and initially suggested the idea that a smoke detector could be placed inside of the bear with the recording. The students, realizing that the sound of a smoke detector may only cause more alarm, found technology that better suited the Aware Bear. Now, a sensor would recognize the sound of the smoke alarm, triggering the recording to guide the child to safety. Although the Aware Bear has not been picked up as a tangible product, Colonna and her team hopes that Aware Bear might have a future.

Reeves, Kelleh and Eaken intend on entering additional competitions to earn funds and publicity for the SeudoSkull to further the project. Currently, Huang is waiting on two patents for the product so he can continue to develop the idea and move forward with future implementation.

“We have thank Professors Mendez and Luppino,” said Reeves, with agreement from Colonna and Kelleh. “It was an amazing learning environment.”

 

*Pictured L-R: Chancellor Leo E. Morton, Fatuma Kelleh, Lischen Reeves, and Professor Tony Luppino at the Challenge
Published: May 23, 2017
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