Seated, left to right: Student innovation competitors Anthony Iavarone, Kevin Yu, Ian Stellmacher; Standing, left to right: Khoa Nguyen, Amir Montazery, Gloria Martinez and Haley Nozell Van Lahr.

Seven DePaul business students were among the prize-winners at the Fourth Annual Student Innovation Awards Competition co-sponsored by DePaul’s Center for Creativity and Innovation (CCI) and the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center (CEC).

Open to graduate and undergraduate students from across DePaul University’s colleges and schools, the awards recognize students’ creativity, originality and ability to solve problems while discovering new opportunities. This year, 65 nominations were submitted representing inventions or improvements to a new product, service, process or technology that create new value for customers or users.

Three scholarship award winners and three honorable mentions were named at the awards ceremony held on Feb. 17.  Driehaus College of Business undergraduate students captured the top three awards.  They were: 

  • Kevin Yu, who won the Gold Level Scholarship Prize of $1,000 for his innovation, “BluLite,” a car accident prevention system that reduces the number of accidents arising from left turns in unprotected intersections by pairing a highly visible blue light placed on existing traffic signal structures with a motion sensing strip on the road to alert drivers of oncoming traffic;
  • Ian Stellmach, who captured the Silver Level Scholarship Prize of $750 for “Jam City,” an online platform for the music enthusiast that provides music training, composition and collaboration;
  • Anthony Iavarone, who landed the Bronze Level Scholarship Prize of $500 for “, a social network for high school and college students to build professional profiles, locate jobs and showcase their entrepreneurial and professional aspirations.
"Making even a small impact on someone’s life is true fulfillment," says Kevin Yu, Gold Level Scholarship winner. "I want to make the world a safer place one BluLite at a time.”​

 Honorable mention awards of $100 were presented to three students:

  • Gloria Martinez, a College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences student, for her innovation, “Martínez Escuela de Lengua y Cultura,” a non-profit school for native Spanish speakers to preserve and promote Latino cultures, unite Latino communities and develop Latino identities through education;
  • Khoa Nguyen, an undergraduate business student, for “YourResponse,” a classroom response system application with GPS for laptops, smartphones and tables enabling improved engagement for course instructors at a more affordable price point;
  • Haley Nozell Van Lahr and Amir Montazery, Kellstadt Graduate School of Business students, for “TXTR,” a digital platform allowing businesses and brands to strengthen relationships with customers through the use of text messaging.

The awards competition reflects the Center for Creativity and Innovation’s mission to foster creative discovery that brings new value through innovation,” says Lisa Gundry, management professor and director of CCI. “The students used their creativity and their educational and life experiences to come up with ideas for technology, services and social innovations, among others. These innovations can change the way we do things and offer better solutions.”

The competitors made their presentations and pitches in the awards ceremony at Grind LaSalle, a collaborative workspace and co-working community founded by entrepreneur Benjamin Dyett. Grind has partnered with DePaul’s CCI and CEC to host a number of community events and class visits this year. The event also featured keynote speaker Rhon Daguro, founder and CEO of Nervana, a digital design and interactive technology startup, and a winner of the Chicago Innovation Awards.

The award nominations were evaluated by a pool of judges drawn from entrepreneurs and innovators in the business community, including DePaul alumni Paul DeCrette, Brad Emanuel, Andrew Ladd and Robert Perrelli.  The following criteria were used to evaluate the nominations:

  • Concise descriptions of the innovation, noting any significant features, details or capabilities.
  • What is the problem being addressed or opportunity being embraced?
  • What is the new value created and to whom is it delivered (e.g. the target market)
  • How is the solution different from competitors and existing offerings?
​The scholarships were funded by the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board, as part of their commitment to supporting DePaul student entrepreneurs.  Cash prizes to the honorable mention winners were provided by Snap-On Tools, Inc., and Bennett Brenton of the Creativity and Innovation Center Advisory Board.

“As the hub for entrepreneurship across the DePaul campus, the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center welcomed the opportunity to co-host the annual Student Innovation Awards,” says Terri Lonier, clinical professor and executive director, Coleman Entrepreneurship Center. 

“The competition serves as an important step in encouraging student entrepreneurs to expand their thinking and explore innovative ideas that can lead to new business ventures. It’s always exciting to see how DePaul students creatively interpret their world and bring fresh ideas to solving daily problems.”​​