Varsity, Malleable Medical Take Top Honors at CU-Boulder Competition

College life can be overwhelming for some students. There are so many events to attend, clubs to join, classes to take—and parties to go to—that finding out about the coolest stuff and what’s right for you can be a challenge.

Varsity, a mobile application designed by a team of University of Colorado at Boulder computer science and business school students, aims to change that. The team presented its app Tuesday night at CU-Boulder’s New Venture Challenge and walked away with $10,000.

Varsity split the $20,000 top prize with Malleable Medical Tech, a team of materials chemists that has developed a new type of plastic that can be used in prosthetics and orthopedic devices.

The New Venture Challenge is CU-Boulder’s top event for student and faculty entrepreneurs. This year it drew 48 teams from the business and music schools, computer science and chemistry departments, and Boulder Digital Works, a design program for graduate students that is affiliated with the university.

Five teams competed in the finals in front of about 250 people who packed an auditorium in the CU Law School.

Varsity founder Devon Tivona described his app as a tool “designed to help students find what they love through a personalized feed of events, clubs, and classes based upon their interest.” He said it would replace the cluttered bulletin boards and e-mail event lists that few people read.

Students sign in with their university IDs and find their class schedule already loaded. They then answer a few questions about their interests, and the Varsity software goes to work providing recommendations.

But Varsity isn’t just for students, and the team would market it to colleges. The data it collects can be used by universities to see which activities draw attendees and what their students are interested in, Tivona said.

The universities could then use the data to streamline marketing efforts and tailor event programming to their student bodies.

Malleable Medical Tech won its share of the grand prize for work on a new type of plastic

The way plastics are made is undergoing a revolution, Malleable Medical founder Philip Taynton said, and “the first thing it’s going to revolutionize is the world of orthopedic and prosthetic devices.”

Taynton said the plastic his company is developing is twice as strong and can be molded at half the temperature of traditional plastics. He expects podiatrists will be able to use the commercially available product to make devices that cost 25 percent less than those made using current methods. Making a device could take as little as 10 minutes, he said.

Malleable Medical Tech would originally focus on orthopedic devices, but it could be used “anywhere where you want to mold something hard and tough to fit your body,” Taynton said.

NeuroPractice, a startup out of the college of music, finished third and received $1,000 from the judges. The company has created a headset that measures brainwaves and relays the data by Bluetooth to a smart device. Musicians would wear the headset while practicing a piece, which the smart device also records.

Founder Sara Corry said NeuroPractice’s software identifies when a musician is mentally stumbling over a part of the score and alerts him or her to the problem. A musician can then go back and try to master that piece of the composition.

Corry said her product could lead to a more efficient way to teach music performance that is less frustrating for students.

“Instead of playing something over and over and over again, the program will tell you, ‘Hey, you’re messing up in this one second here and this one second here and this one second here.’ So the student only has to practice those three seconds, as opposed to an entire 36-minute concerto. They’re getting a more individualized focus,” Corry said.

Finishing out of the top three were wAkeio and Agribotix.

wAkeio is developing a “social alarm clock” app for mobile devices. The app would let users wake up to videos messages from friends and families, inspirational videos, or their favorite clips.

The team said it surveyed more than 100 people and found that not only were people using the alarm function on their smartphones to wake up, they immediately began using it.

“People are checking their phones between 0 and 10 minutes into their mornings. They’re going to social media, checking their e-mail, checking the weather,” co-founder Deana Rhodes said.

The surveys also showed people wanted to start the day on a positive note.

“People want to wake up to good messages, they don’t just want to wake up to social media platforms they just scroll through or an e-mail that has some bad news, possibly,” she said.

Agribotix’s pitch was that they’re “bringing Old MacDonald into the 21st Century through the use of low-cost, commodity drones that gather data for agriculture to increase profits,” advisor and investor Wayne Greenberg said.

The company plans to build cheap, autonomous drones that take high-resolution images of farmland that farmers could use to identify problems like which parts of their fields need more fertilizer.

The Agribotix team said its drones and software have the potential to save farmers millions of dollars on products like fertilizer and could deliver more timely data at a fraction of the cost of the satellite data that farmers currently rely on.

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