A team of IIT students won third place in the energy track in the global Idea to Product (I2P) competition in Brazil on November 9, 2013. In April, the team finished first in the regional competition in St. Louis, MO.
Team members include: Darya Ivankina (BSBA ’13), IIT Stuart School of Business; Yi Lu (MSF ’14), IIT Stuart School of Business; Alex Stiles (MMAE ’12), IIT Armour College of Engineering; Mauro Leos (MS IPMM ’13), IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law; and Rytis "Ray" Bizauskas (BSBA ’16), IIT Stuart School of Business.
Teammates Ray Bizauskas and Alex Stiles, along with the team’s coach Nik Rokop, managing director of the IIT Entrepreneurship Academy, traveled to São Paulo, Brazil, to represent the team. They competed with 13 teams from six countries and four continents in the global final.
Ray and Alex noted that the primary goal was for student teams to learn from one another and from judges’ feedback. “It was great that the competition wasn’t overly competitive — it was very open, and more about learning,” said Ray. “You learn much more when you have the opportunity to interact with your competitors and judges and get their feedback, compared to focusing solely on competing with other teams.”
The team submitted two proposals and made a formal presentation about the strategies for their company, Samambu LLC, which markets and distributes Abhadi™. Abhadi™ is a thin, flexible nonwoven bamboo fiber mat that can be combined with plastics and formed into everything from furniture to appliances to parts for automobiles.
“It’s really the first natural fiber composite option available for a small-scale composites manufacturer or hobbyists,” said Alex, who originally developed Abhadi™ as an independent project while studying at Brigham Young University. Alex connected with teammates at IIT around identifying the right market and strategies for commercializing the product. “The biggest advantages of our material are that it’s renewable and requires 80% less energy to produce compared with traditional fiberglass,” he added.
In the future, the team is hoping to bring on a product designer and possibly launch a Kickstarter campaign to showcase some applications of the material, including a lamp that they showcased at the I2P finals. In the meantime, they are working to continue to identify relevant markets for their product and hoping to enter more competitions to gain recognition and additional input. Earlier this year, the team placed second at the Tepper Venture Challenge, hosted by Carnegie Mellon’s Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Association.
As part of the team’s visit to São Paulo, they also met up with Yared Akalou, an IIT alumnus now living in Brazil, for dinner. Alex commented, “It was wonderful to hear about his experiences in Brazil and to see this connection to a global community that comes with attending IIT.”
The team would like to thank Natacha DePaola, Dean of Armour College of Engineering; Harold J. Krent, Dean of Chicago-Kent College of Law; and Harvey Kahalas, Dean of Stuart School of Business for their support in allowing the team to attend the global final in Brazil. The team received additional support from Prof. Heather Harper with the IIT Entrepreneurial Law Clinic, who helped establish Samambu as a business; John Welin at the IIT Idea Shop, who helped build the molds and some of the parts the team used to create the prototype lamp they took to the competition; and Nik Rokop, who served as the team’s academic advisor.