Innovative car seat buckle, suitcase handle take top spots at 6th annual Purdue Elevator Pitch Competition

April 9, 2012

Monica Harvey, a senior studying economics, delivers her winning pitch to Mike Cassidy, the "man in the elevator," during the sixth annual Purdue University Elevator Pitch Competition at the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. Harvey won for her pitch on Belt Buddies from among the more than 20 participants in the undergraduate division. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A kid-friendly car seatbelt device and an innovative suitcase handle provided the winning pitches at the 2012 Purdue University Elevator Pitch Competition in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.

Monica Harvey, a senior in economics, captured the $1,000 top prize in the undergraduate division for her two-minute pitch on Belt Buddies, a buckle that attaches to a car seat to encourage seatbelt use among children through music and toy-like designs. 

In the open division, Jeffrey Ackerman, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, won $1,000 with a pitch on his REDD Science product, which can be attached to a suitcase to increase the energy efficiency of walking and running while reducing the user's muscle strain. The product has applications for the military and consumer tourist market.

Nearly 40 contestants participated in the sixth annual event on Friday (April 6), which was organized by the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program.

"Once again, this event created an exciting and impressive forum for the many aspiring entrepreneurs all across the Purdue campus who are working to refine their business pitches," said Nathalie Duval-Couetil, director of the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program and a professor of technology leadership and innovation.

"We had a record number of entries from diverse campus disciplines. And we had several terrific business ideas and a passion from these students that made it extremely difficult for our judges to pick a winner for each of our two categories."

Finishing second in the undergraduate division was Tony Coiro, a senior in physics, who won $500 for Indy Power Systems, a technology management concept focused on improving the efficiency of battery-driven hybrid and electric vehicles.

Jeffrey Ackerman, at right, demonstrates his innovative handle for making suitcases easier to carry as part of his winning pitch in the open division of the Purdue University Elevator Pitch Competition. With Ackerman, a mechanical engineering graduate student behind the company REDD Science, is Mike Cassidy, who served as the "man in the elevator" for the competition. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)

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Michael Easton, a senior studying political science, won $250 for his third-place pitch on BuoyBand, a compact flotation system that swimmers can attach to their wrist.

Keith Price, a junior in management, captured $500 in the Most Entertaining Pitch special category with a colorful, humorous presentation about Gonuts! Donuts, a donut delivery concept.

The runner-up in the open division was Anton Iliuk, a postdoctoral student in biochemistry, who received $500 for his pitch on Tymora Analytical Operations, which is developing a device for prescreening the effectiveness of cancer drugs.

David Nelson, a graduate student in computer graphics technology, received the $250 third prize for Dufect Mobile, an iPad application that provides communication assistance for those who have lost the ability to speak.

Nathan Mason, a graduate student in management, won the division's Most Entertaining Pitch with his presentation about Aptapure, a filter dialysis technology and process. Mason supplemented his clear explanation of the concept's technical aspects with photocopies of charts and graphs taped to the inside of his suit jacket for quick reference.

The open division was for Purdue faculty and staff, graduate students, entrepreneurs from Purdue Research Park companies and Purdue certificate program alumni.

The contest gives each participant two minutes to describe a business venture to judges, highlighting their product or service, their competitive advantage, the market and its size, and plans to make the business profitable, said Jeanette Greener, manager of the Certificate for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program.

Lead sponsors were Otis Elevator Co.; Bingham Greenebaum & Doll LLP, a law firm with offices in Indianapolis, Jasper and Vincennes; StepStone Business Partners LLC, an Indianapolis venture capital firm; Purdue Federal Credit Union; and Allos Ventures, a venture capital firm in Carmel. Otis Elevator is marking its sixth year of support for the event.

Purdue's Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation program has enrolled more than 3,500 undergraduate students since it began in 2005. Students complete a series of five courses to earn the certificate designed to make entrepreneurship an accessible career option. The curriculum provides students with the skills and knowledge required to launch new business ventures. 

Similar to a minor, the program is designed to begin in a student's freshman or sophomore year and can be completed in approximately four semesters. It has attracted students from every school and college. It is led by the Office of the Provost and housed in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.
Writer:  Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

Sources:  Nathalie Duval-Couetil, 765-494-7068,

                   Jeanette Greener, 765-494-1314,