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On April 30, 2013, a team of two NYIT sophomores took home $1,000 and a “People’s Choice” award at the New York State Business Plan Competition in Albany.
Dhruv Patel, a management student, and William Yu, an architecture student, won the award for their Home2O plan, describing a business that would create an aid package of water bottles on plastic pallets that could later be used to assemble shelter roofs in disaster-stricken areas. The roof construction would employ a special bracket known as the SodaBIB or Soda Bottle Interface Bracket, which received a provisional patent last year.
More than 400 teams competed in what is the largest statewide business plan competition in the nation, held this year at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering of the University at Albany. Yu and Patel were among 16 teams out of 40 that advanced in the regional competition held earlier in the month at NYIT Auditorium on Broadway. On Friday, they were among nine teams competing in the energy/sustainability category, of which only four teams won awards.
“I guess you could say we were the underdogs,” Yu said, noting that many of the teams competing at the finals comprised masters-level or Ph.D. students. “It was nice not to go home empty-handed.”
“They did a fantastic job, outclassing people who were far more advanced in their studies,” said Jason Van Nest, a faculty advisor from the School of Architecture.
Patel, Yu, Van Nest and other advisors — Farzana Gandhi from the School of Architecture and Georg Fuerlinger from the School of Management – arrived the night before and stayed up past midnight to rehearse the presentation. Advisor Michele Bertomen was unable to attend.
The morning of the competition, they watched a few teams compete before it was their turn to present their idea in 10 minutes and face five minutes of questioning by the judges.
“After a couple of teams presented, we got our nerve,” Yu said. “We were prepared.”
As part of their presentation, Yu and Patel handed out instruction manuals to the judges, providing them with universal symbols and illustrations to easily demonstrate how to construct a water bottle roof.
At the end of the day, the students discovered they had won the People’s Choice award. Yu said he’ll likely use his half of the prize for school supplies and materials for his upcoming final presentation in an architecture class: an urban design project on Red Hook, Brooklyn.
For Yu, the business plan competition forced him to learn how to present an idea clearly and succinctly.
“I learned how the business side works – how to actually start up a business,” he said. “I also learned that there are a bunch of opportunities to get exposure if you have an idea. It was a whole different range of thoughts to go through when you consider the business part. You have to think about how to really market yourself and gain the interest of your potential investors.
“Another thing the competition brought for me was a clear understanding of sustainability and water and architecture – and how design can help people. We saw a lot of good ideas, very innovative things being presented.
Van Nest said the team hopes to build a 200-square-foot prototype of the roof on NYIT’s Old Westbury campus this summer.