Alyssa Brennan is diabetic and takes daily blood samples to monitor her blood-sugar levels. One day, as she was leveling the needle at her finger, the FitBit on her wrist caught her eye – and her imagination.
“I thought, ‘What if I can make something similar to the FitBit that will monitor your blood sugar without pricking your finger,'” she recalled. “I thought it would be great if I could incorporate already-existing laser technology into a wristband like FitBit.”
To do that, the 16-year-old from Plantation called on Aviva Grimmett, also from Plantation, and her aptitude for developing websites and apps. Friends since sixth grade, the students at Nova High School in Davie will take their places on a bare stage at the AXA Event Production Center in New York City on Oct. 6 for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s(NFTE) 2015 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.
Competing for seed money and the recognition that goes with winning a national contest, they will stand before a giant screen, flash through a PowerPoint presentation and explain how their project addresses a need.
All told, four students from Broward County high schools are polishing pitches and preparing to present inventions at the event.
Brennan said she and Grimmett used existing mid-infrared quantum laser she got from the MIT technology page from 2012 to create the BloodBand, which measures wrist sweat, something Brennan describes as having a “very strong correlation to ditestinal fluid.”
That won the pair $1,500 and the trip to New York, where they are facing competition from visionaries nationwide, all making their best pitches for the first-place award of $25,000 in business funding and services.
Among the competitors are Jason Ramadan of Coral Springs, who developed Cliff Fall, described as an iOS game with a personalized and “more user-friendly” experience.
“I knew it was going to happen. We are getting 5,000 downloads per day,” he said of his achievement. “People would have a game where you played, and it was filled with ads, and they would get bored within a week — same game, same objective, over and over. So here you have three objectives and no ads to disturb your game play.”
Kevin Diniz of Sunrise is a Piper High School student who, with a partner who has since left the project, developed Easy Scholar, an app that helps students find relevant scholarships, narrowing a search that many find disheartening because of its complexity.
It was born of Diniz’s heart. A painter who has filled his room with acrylic renderings of local landmarks, he took to coding as quickly as he had taken to painting, he said, and his practical brain recognized it as a more viable career option, especially when he started filling out college applications.
“I have lived here all my life, since we moved to America from Brazil in 2000,” he said, “but because I am not a citizen, I can’t get financial aid. I was planning to go out of state to university, but that caused me to not apply for scholarships.”
When a teacher told him about the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, what began as a classroom project grew into the app he will present at the competition.
“Winning first prize is really big. It will help me pay for college and start a business,” he said. “But winning for me isn’t the only thing. It is getting someone who knows more about business than I do, because I am still 19, and it would be a bigger accomplishment.”
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