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Students Dazzle at First Year of New Contest

After many years of successful Utah Entrepreneur Challenges for the state’s college students, high school innovators were invited to have a turn in the spotlight this year.

Zions Bank teamed up with the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute — an interdisciplinary division of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah — to promote youth entrepreneurship and innovation with the new contest.

By Mike Winder

Zions Bank’s Director of Entrepreneurship Programs

 

 

 

 

Sixty-eight teams entered the competition, with the top 16 teams advancing to the final event. Business ideas ranged from surgical tools to fashion consulting. At the May 14 event at the U, finalists represented private schools, public schools and charter schools from seven counties throughout Utah. Competitors ranged from age 14 to18. It was an amazing first year of what will now be an annual contest.

“We’re very excited to bring this competition to Utah,” said Mark Rasmussen, student chair of the High School Utah Entrepreneur Challenge. “We were very impressed with the incredible ideas presented by the teams. Many of these students will become our next entrepreneurs, inventors and business leaders.”

 

EcoGo and Electro-Surgical Pouch Big Winners

The two grand prizewinners of $5,000 each were EcoGo and Electro-Surgical Pouch.

EcoGo, founded by students from Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City, is developing an app to reduce the number of vehicles on Utah roads. The app gamifies transit usage and is in essence a public transportation version of the popular app MapMyRun.

Electro-Surgical Pouch was created by students from the Jordan Academy for Technology and Careers and from Bingham High School in South Jordan. The student team is developing a laparoscopic surgical tool to both dissect the gallbladder off the liver bed and remove it from the abdomen at the same time.

“I was surprised so many teams entered the competition,” said Ryan Scott, a member of Electro-Surgical Pouch and a senior at Bingham High School. “I think it’s awesome so many people are starting companies at a young age. It shows we are working hard to get ahead as a generation.”

 

Many Awards, Many Winners

The winner of the People’s Choice award and a $1,000 cash prize was the Academy of Math, Engineering and Science in Murray whose student team developed Breathe Easy, a stylish mask for filtering air pollution. The team secured the most votes from spectators at the final awards and showcase event.

Among other prizes were invitations to Zions Bank’s Elite Entrepreneur program for all finalists and $1,000 scholarships for 10 students to live at Lassonde Studios, a new residential, entrepreneurial and maker facility (a space for people who build and create things) for students at the U that opened in August.

“Entrepreneurship is thriving in Utah at every age, and this competition is evidence of that,” said Kathy Hajeb, a director at the Lassonde Institute.

“We can’t wait to see what these students do with their prize money to get their ideas to the next level. We also look forward to them joining us in the future as students at the University of Utah and residents at Lassonde Studios.”