Queensborough Students Took Two of the Top Three Spots in the CUNY & Capital One Community College Innovation Challenge Finals
The CUNY & Capital One Community College Innovation Challenge Finals took place on May 26 at Kingsborough Community College. This was a 2-semester innovation challenge where students prepared their business ideas for launch. The program was funded by a $45,000 grant from Capital One Bank that Kingsborough Community College and Queensborough Community College received this year. The lead Principal Investigator of the grant was Dr. Edgar Troudt, Assistant Professor in Tourism and Hospitality at Kingsborough and the Co-Principal Investigator was Professor Christine Mooney, Associate Professor in the Business Department at Queensborough.
This was the second year of the challenge, with Kingsborough Community College/CEWD as the host seat (with CUNY’s Center for Student Entrepreneurship and Queensborough Community College as integral partners). The student teams prepared during the spring semester to refine their ideas and align their offerings with what they’ve learned from speaking with potential customers. Students in the competition represented Kingsborough, Queensborough, LaGuardia, Hostos and Bronx Community College.
Three Queensborough students made it to the finals. One of the students is Kelvin Henry, who is paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a gunshot wound in his back. His disability inspired him to create a line of adaptive apparel that he sketches, designs, and sews on his own industrial sewing machine. Kelvin won first place prize, $7,500.00, for his business idea, KMATIKZ, including a Samsung galaxy tablet plus a $500.00 seed grant for his own industrial sewing machine. In order to use the sewing machine, he invented a part that allows him to use his hands to control the machine and move the fabric along. He built the part earlier this year in the College’s 3D Printing Lab with help from his mentors, Michael Lawrence and Bernard Hunter, Senior College Lab Technicians.
Other Queensborough winners are Business major Brian Munevar and Mechanical Engineering major Kevin Fernandez who won the third place prize of $3,000.00 for their business idea called Bi-Flex Hinge, a folding bicycle flexible hinge design. LaGuardia Community College placed second for $5,000.00.
Additional highlights of the event included remarks by Keynote Speaker Rahfeal Gordon, renowned life strategist, leadership specialist, and innovator of inspiration. The Competitive Event concluded with an educational seminar on Design Thinking, led by Larry Liu, CEO, Pomegranate Lab.
“This has been an amazing, inspiring experience for all the participants,” said Professor Mooney. “I think it really speaks to the importance of teaching entrepreneurship in the community colleges."
Kelvin’s story has been shared with several media outlets including the online publication DNAinfo, NY1 and ABC/Channel 7. He also has many positive shout-outs on social media, including a tweet from the NYC Mayor’s Office, “Changing the world, thread by thread…”
He expressed his deep gratitude for the support he has received from the entire college community, especially his mentors: Dr. Stuart Asser, Professor and Chairperson, Engineering Technology; Professor Christine Mooney, Associate Professor in the Business Department; Professor Marilyn Katz in the Business Department Department; Joseph Goldenberg, Associate Professor, Engineering Technology; Jerry Sitbon, Chief College Laboratory Technician, Engineering Technology; and Michael Lawrence and Bernard Hunter, Senior College Lab Technicians in the Engineering Technology 3D Lab.
“I have all these people who want to see me succeed,” said Kelvin, who is an active member of the college’s Services for Students with Disabilities. “I wouldn’t have been able to make it this far without the encouragement on campus.”
Theresa Bedeau, vice president of community development banking at Capital One Bank said that, “As a local bank, we are committed to investing in New York and helping our community to grow and thrive. By fostering entrepreneurship and enabling CUNY students to gain real world business experience, we are working to develop the future business leaders of our city.”
This project was in collaboration between CUNY’s Center for Student Entrepreneurship, Queensborough Community College and the Center for Economic and Workforce Development at Kingsborough Community College. The total prize payouts of $25,000.00 to the seven teams included $500.00 seed grants to each participant, $500.00 for each team participating in the final, Samsung galaxy tablets and cases which each of the finalists received; as well as an intensive two day boot camp.