After winning the Social Entrepreneurship Conference, Madison Eddings, junior, and Ben Eisdorfer, sophomore, used their prize money to move forward with PRO(TECH)T.
“We have opened an official PRO(TECH)T bank account with the prize money and personal funds,” Eddings said. “I think it’s going toward mostly prototyping costs.”
The invention could have been a completely conceptual idea, but the pair decided to move forward using the prize money of $3,000, Eddings said.
UNC’s 2015 Social Entrepreneurship Conference was held at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro Feb. 11, according to UNC’s website. Teams from 17 UNC campuses gathered to present their ideas for inventions which would help solve social issues.
“I think the blue lights are a great resource on campus, but Ben (Eisdorfer) came up with this catchphrase, ‘Let’s make the blue lights mobile,’” Eddings said. “But one thing that we have to remember is that rape and sexual assault and anything along those lines are not very often the surprise attack when you’re out in the dark – it could happen in a dorm room and at someone’s home.”
While brainstorming an invention for class, Eddings and Eisdorfer came up with the idea of a wearable tech bracelet with GPS software that would notify campus police at the push of a button, Eddings said.
“We just asked the question ‘What does someone who is being assaulted or potentially could be assaulted need?’ They need somebody there,” Eddings said. “Then I thought, ‘Well, what if they had something on them?’ and then the idea just kind of sprang from there.”
Eddings said acquaintance rapists are among the common form, and their bracelets would allow people to send for help. She said they would like to eventually figure out a way anyone can use the bracelet to utilize local police as well. That is one of the many aspects they are working on, moving forward.
“It will be easier to first use it on campus than off,” Eisdorfer said. “The main difference in the bracelet and the blue lights is that since the blue light is obviously stationary, you have to press it, and if you’re being attacked and waiting there, that’s an issue. Our bands will have GPS on it and you can run from the attacker and the police can intercept.”
Eddings said they are thinking about two options in regards to buying the bracelets.
“Public universities obviously work through state legislation, so there are a lot of restrictions on what they can purchase for students, so we are hoping that the bracelets can be available to students for around $100 per band,” Eddings said. “We are also seeing if the bands can be purchased particularly in private schools through housing contracts or service fees, or if the bands can be purchased for students by the school.”
They said they don’t want to exclude anyone based on economic status. Eddings said they have been working on different ideas concerning this.
“If students come from a lower economic background, the bands can be prorated so they are available to them,” Eddings said. “It is important that if it’s available to one person it’s available to everyone.”
The team worked with their adviser Philip Gary since the beginning. Eisdorfer said he was their biggest supporter throughout the class and competition. Gary gave them personal contacts from the legal and technological ends, Eisdorfer said.
“I don’t think we would be here without his help and he’s believed in us since the beginning,” Eddings said. “Our initial pitch was terrible and he said he saw a spark in us and asked to work with us. Two weeks later we came to him with a new idea. He’s introduced us to different people in the entrepreneurial field.”
The conference consisted of two rounds. During the first round, the 27 teams presented to judges in a four minute pitch with four minutes of questions. Eisdorfer said the first round was very structured and they had time to rehearse and a set time to present.
After the first round, participants waited in the dining hall to find out which 10 teams would advance to the final round, Eddings said.
“They put up a slide and you immediately have to go and present,” Eddings said. “You only have three minutes to do that pitch, so you have to memorize two pitches basically. We were standing in line and we were shaking. We were whispering it under our breaths because we were third or fourth in line. We were messing up left and right.”
Eddings said as they stood in line, they looked over toward Gary and he gave them a slow nod.
“We forgot to use our mics so we were projecting and running on adrenaline,” Eddings said. “It was probably the best pitch we’ve done. I don’t think there were really any mess ups. And afterwards I just wanted to pass out. It was a scary and intense day but it was so awesome, too.”
Eddings said the judges deliberated for about half an hour after the second round. Undergraduate and graduate teams were placed separately in first, second and third. She said they thought many of the other teams that placed below them did very well.
Other ideas that teams presented were for a pharmaceutical delivery service in rural areas, pecan milk and pecan farms in North Carolina, and Hearts Racers, a CPR training service for remote areas at a cheaper cost. Heart Racers was the other team representing UNC Asheville, Eddings said.
“I think they won not only because they had a good idea, but also because they worked very, very hard to develop their business plan,” said Mary Lynn Manns, management professor. “Plenty of the other competing teams had good ideas, but Madison’s and Ben’s business plan was really good. They worked very hard to do all the investigative work. When they got feedback from their faculty and staff advisers, they were willing to keep improving their work.”
During the course, a team of faculty and staff advised the students on creating their written business plan, which included a market and sustainability analysis, social impact potential, three- year projected financial statement and likelihood of success, as well as their formal presentation and a question-and-answer session, Manns said.
“This is going to be a really cool class in the upcoming fall,” Manns said. “We have arranged for real entrepreneurs to advise the students – the students are going to be exposed to some amazing experiences.”
Manns said watching Eddings and Eisdorfer win was one of the best experiences she has had at UNCA.
Eddings said she is a pre-dental student, but is also interested in pursuing PRO(TECH)T while going to school.
“We can’t stop getting our degrees,” Eddings said. “But I think it’s definitely taken a focus in our lives. It’s been pretty stressful finding a balance working on this. We both work two jobs and are full-time students, but we both love it so much that we want to put all of ourselves into it and make it happen for real. I think it’s such an important idea.”
Eisdorfer said when it is all said and done, his No. 1 goal is to have this company get off the ground and implement these bracelets into schools.
“I could care less about having a really great job at whatever company,” Eisdorfer said. “I just want to work on this. I get really happy working on this.”
Eisdorfer said just after winning the competition, they were invited to meetings to talk with people high up in the and school system, and have been presented with more resources.
“Our school has been extremely receptive,” Eddings said. “We met Chancellor Grant and she was so kind. We are so excited about all these opportunities and the people we will get to meet. It’s really humbling too because it shows you can’t accomplish things on your own. You need to reach out when you need it.”