Illinois Tech Innovation Challenge Results


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Illinois Institute of Technology hosted the Illinois Tech Innovation Challenge for future entrepreneurs. The competition was open to students from Illinois Tech, high school, and local community colleges and universities. Several future entrepreneurs were invited to create a smart solution to a real-world consumer or business need by creating a physical thing, application, or other idea.

After months of hard work, mentoring, judging and eliminations, the 2018 Illinois Tech Innovation Challenge concluded on November 17th. The final round consisted of three different tracks: Chicagoland High Schools, Illinois Tech Students, and Chicagoland Universities. Each track included up to five semifinalists vying for a spot in the top three. All of the competitors had well developed plans which made for a fierce and close competition. Although it was a competition, the challenge doubled as a learning experience with judges and mentors providing constructive feedback for the participants.

Winners were awarded up to $2,500 and free mHUB rent! In addition, high School winners received up to $25,000 in scholarship to Illinois Tech. We encourage all participants of the Illinois Tech Innovation Challenge to continue to pursue their ideas and creativity until they succeed.

See the competition results below.

Learn more about the Illinois Tech Innovation Challenge at

Chicagoland High School Results

1st Place: Sting Ray by Ohm Robotics

This idea was pitched by Blizhaid Estrada of William Jones College Prep High School. The Sting Ray is an autonomous and solar powered robot that collects physical contaminants in lakes and large rivers. It can hold several pounds of debris and alerts the operator when full. Mr. Estrada holds a NIMS credential in Safety and Material Inspection and was previously a Global Finalist of MIT’s Launch Entrepreneurship Club.


2nd Place: Peel Towel

The team behind this idea consists of three individuals: Prarthana Prashanth of Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, Srikant Lokesh of Waubonsie Valley High School, and Milind Sagaram of Metea Valley High School. This trio has worked together on various projects for the past four years and have won numerous awards at the State and Regional Level. The Peel Towel is simply an environmentally friendly paper towel made from discarded fruit peels and recycled paper with the ability to kill bacteria and absorb more water than the normal paper towel. It is made with a 2:1 ratio of fruit peels to recycled paper. The product has been tested at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine for their effectiveness of killing bacteria.


3rd Place: The Oil Magnet

The Oil Magnet was pitched by a team of three, all from Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. The members are Marisa Patel-O’Conor, Eden Gorevoy, and Sol Hwangbo. The Oil Magnet repurposes boom technology to employ a new way of cleaning oil spills using magnetic nanoparticles. It is a fast, clean, and cost-efficient method according to the team. They also state this method would allow the oil to be reused once it is collected.


Illinois Tech Results

1st Place: R@spberry F@rm

Rachael Brooks and Savannah Brown have created a Raspberry PI prototype to combat the high cost of greenhouses and vertical farming. This product is an easily scalable and intelligent plant monitoring and management system to automate vertical farms and greenhouses. It utilizes AI to learn early warning indicators for distressed plants. Their plan is expected to yield a 20% decrease in operating cost.


2nd Place: Phetch

The members of this four-person team are Bobby Ton, Isabel Jaramillo, Preethi Sethu Ragunathan, and Shan Shazad. The Phetch app strives to shorten the amount of time to locate and return pets. As an alternative to other methods, this app consists of two parts: a GPS microchip is inserted inside the animal, then the microchip is registered to the application. When an animal is declared lost, the alert is sent to all members of the app, allowing anyone to retrieve the pet and take it to the nearest shelter.


3rd Place: Let’s Connect

Shruti Tirpide aims to decrease loneliness and offer a medium to introduce introverted individuals to others through this app. Let’s Connect is an application that connects people through common interests, attitudes, and values. Ms. Tirpide alleges that the app would help people to connect at a deeper level, foster long lasting friendships, and bring value and purpose to their life. She plans to target students first before branching out to a total addressable market of more than 10 million individuals.


Chicagoland Universities Results

Tie – 1st Place: KAOSHI

Chukwunonso Arinze of The University of Chicago pitched KAOSHI as an alternative way to send money to family in Africa. This app standardizes the popular peer to peer money transfer method many African immigrants use to send money back to their African family. In the current state, this method is usually limited to friends, family, and acquittances, creating a challenge to send money back home. Mr. Arinze developed an application that allows money senders post their request to send money and have this request broadcast globally, so that other money senders, seeking to send money in the opposite direction can see this request, match the offer, and make payments on behalf of each other locally.

Tie – 1st Place: SkimmyLabs

This team consist of Joseph Griffith of Wilbur Wright College and Peter Li of Northwestern University. SkimmyLabs strive to attack credit card skimmers, small devices attached to credit card machines that are capable of stealing credit card information. To do so, SkimmyLabs created a new credit card (SkimmyCard) that automatically alerts users if a skimmer is detected. This team is in the process of preparing pilot programs with the largest card issuers in the US.


Honorable Mentions

The Following Teams are semifinalists that did not place in the top three of their respective category

High School: “AAA System” by Krisha Patel

“IOTA Piscium” by Madhumitha Manivannan

Illinois Tech: “Phantom Assist” by Xavier John and Alexander O’Claire

“Tahdig” by Milad Sabouri and Nastaran Ghane