By James Mercadante
At the seventh annual Mayo Business Plan Competition Finals on the evening of April 4, three teams competed for the $30,000 grand prize.
As the audience sat on the edge of their seats in Mayo Concert Hall, William Keep, dean of the School of Business, described how the competition started when Herbert B. Mayo handed him a check seven years ago, asking Keep to create a business plan competition.
Ryan Chiu, a junior accounting major, and Jacob Boyle, a junior mechanical engineering major, came in first place for their invention of MARCo, a therapeutic robotic device designed to assist individuals with illnesses including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.
MARCo Technologies, LLC strives to provide a line of compassionate robotic companions for individuals suffering from a broad range of mental illnesses in order to encourage wider access to mental health care and reduce the burdens placed on caregivers, according to Boyle.
The charming royal-blue robot looked out at the audience and said, “Nobody should ever be alone in their suffering and I am here to make sure nobody ever will be.”
The treatment that MARCo provides is broken up into five divisions of care — companionship and social interaction, instructive and stimulating guided meditation, cognitive behavioral treatment, bio-feedback and external outreach in a high-risk situation, according to Boyle. Chiu added that his team developed a treatment plan after consulting with the College’s Counseling and Psychological Services.
The idea of MARCo was inspired by Chiu and Boyle’s personal experiences with their own loved ones who suffer from some form of mental illness. Both members of the team noticed a gap between those who are mentally ill and those who receive treatment, and sought to make an effort to relieve this imbalance.
Our Tsunami placed second in the competition, winning $20,000, for its creation of board-shorts that are equipped to be a more sustainable, durable and affordable garment for lifeguards.
The team was composed of four students: Neil Desai, a junior finance major, Erika Hausheer, a junior finance major, Sung Min Kwon, a senior marketing major and Dennis Tuohy, a junior political science and economics double major. These students all shared a passion to bring a wave of change in the lifeguard community, according to Tuohy.
The team saw a need for a standard quality uniform for lifeguards, similar to that of police officers and firefighters, that would increase rescue response times.
“We are proud of our product,” Hausheer said. “It took us a long time, but we’ve made it this far.”
Sneaker Creatures placed third in the competition, winning a $10,000 prize. Sneaker Creatures is the third all-freshman team to compete in the Mayo Business Plan finals in seven years, according to Keep.
Benjamin Cutler, a freshman economics major, and Jon Lugo, a freshman management major, both stood on stage with a display table filled with multiple pairs of sneakers, and presented their idea of buying and selling high-end sneakers — that are mostly used — online for lower prices.
“We created a website with the goal of becoming a marketplace where people can browse through high-quality sneakers,” Cutler said. “This will save customers time because they will have a place to browse a variety of used sneakers — without our website, they have to hunt on websites like Ebay for a specific shoe.”