Research Foundation News

May 1, 2017

Creators of augmented reality classroom technology win fourth annual Boiler Business Competition

Explore interactive From left: front, Thanh Tran, Wesley Virt, Chris Palermo, and back, John Allen, Connor Wright and Charles Frey -- all Purdue students -- walked away with first place during “Demo Day” at the fourth annual Boiler Business Competition, or Boiler. They are co-founders of Explore Interactive LLC, a company commercializing an interactive platform to assist elementary school students. (Purdue Research Foundation photo/Curt Slyder) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Explore Interactive LLC, a startup created by a team of Purdue students commercializing an interactive platform to foster STEM education in elementary school students, took top honors during “Demo Day” of the fourth annual Boiler Business Competition, or Boiler, on Friday (April 28) at the Anvil in West Lafayette, Indiana.

During the eight-week competition, participants receive professional advice from entrepreneurial experts at the Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship in Purdue's Discovery Park. They also get mentoring from industry leaders, free office space, funding and workshops enabling their startups to advance to the next level.

Explore Interactive won $5,000, free office space at the Anvil and free legal advice from Gutwein Law in Lafayette, which will provide services to the top three finishers. The Anvil is a student-operated startup co-space adjacent to the Purdue campus.

Explore Interactive’s app turns learning into a game where students complete learning-based tasks in pursuit of completing a mission.

“The platform uses augmented reality technology to add a new dimension to STEM teaching for elementary students,” said co-founder Wesley Virt, a senior in Purdue’s Krannert School of Management. “With our product, students can touch, move, experiment with a concept and practice skills through smart devices and laptops schools have already purchased.”

Other team members include Thanh Tran, a junior the College of Science; Chris Palermo, a junior in the Krannert School of Management; Charles Frey, a sophomore in the College of Education; and John Allen and Connor Wright, both juniors in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute. The team will use the winnings to build content for their platform.

“We hope that winning this competition will help move us to the next level,” Virt said.

Second place went to Trubadour, an online platform connecting poets and readers. They received $3,000.

Though Trubadour is currently a website, company founders envision expanding it into an app in the future. The website allows poets to publish and get feedback from readers who can choose poems they like, seek out genres and otherwise interact with the poets.

“We’re looking to grow our team and our funding efforts,” said co-founder Rebecca Roach, a former Purdue graduate student in the College of Liberal Arts. “We want to talk with more poets and readers to grow our online community.”

Taking third and $1,500 was Bellwether Design Solutions, a team allowing home builders to give clients virtual reality tours of their homes before they are constructed. Using the technology, clients can request changes in design, color, fabric and other building elements before construction is finished.

“Several construction companies have agreed to work with us to test the potential of our product,” said team co-founder Alec Hassfurther, a junior in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute.

The Boiler is about much more than just the prize money, Hassfurther said.

“Being part of this competition gives you unmatched learning experiences,” Hassfurther said. “From learning the ins and outs of business to being able to pitch in front of venture capitalists, we’re really grateful for the experience.”

Commons, a nonprofit team marketing an app to connect elected officials and constituents, pitched its product but did not compete for prizes. Its app uploads publicly available records on how elected officials vote on various bills and what legislation they sponsor or introduce. The app also allows users to give likes or dislikes to voting records, bills and otherwise give feedback to elected officials.

“We plan to launch this app next fall,” said co-founder Ben Alderfer, a junior in the College of Science.

Anvil director Connor Van Ooyen said the event’s 30 teams made this year’s competition one of the most competitive yet. Five semifinalist teams each received $500. Two wild card teams each received $300.

“It seems to get more difficult every year to narrow the field,” Van Ooyen said. “The teams have such amazing ideas and are all so well-prepared that we wish we could advance all of them.”

Judges included members of the Foundry, Purdue Polytechnic Statewide, and other Anvil-based startups.

About the Anvil

The Anvil is the largest co-working space operated by university students in the U.S. and is used by Purdue University students as well as the surrounding community. The Anvil is located at 320 North St. in West Lafayette, Indiana, adjacent to the Purdue campus.

About Purdue Research Foundation

The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Established in 1930, the foundation accepts gifts; administers trusts; funds scholarships and grants; acquires property; protects Purdue's intellectual property; and promotes entrepreneurial activities on behalf of Purdue. The foundation manages the Purdue Foundry, Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, Purdue Research Park and Purdue Technology Centers. The foundation received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at

Writer: Curt Slyder, 765-588-3342,

Source: Connor Van Ooyen,

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