Research Foundation News

May 30, 2019

Two Purdue student startups win $8,000 at international business competition

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – FlykeART, a Purdue University-affiliated student startup developing a lighter and smarter galley cart for airplanes, has won $5,000 for placing in the top 10 in the International Business Model Competition held at Brigham Young University.

FlykeART received honorable mention, meaning the team finished in a group ranked in the top 10 in the competition, which drew 40 teams to Provo, Utah, earlier this month. Global Sign, another Purdue-affiliated student startup, which created a platform to make content more accessible to people who are deaf or have limited hearing through use of American Sign Language, won $3,000 for being selected as a semifinalist.   

“We are very happy to see that our company is recognized by many different participants, including the judges, and that they believe that we can be very successful,” said Yuhan Roh, one of the founders of FlykeART and a graduate assistant in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

FlykeART is developing an aircraft galley cart that will help airlines save millions of dollars on operations costs because it is lighter and has an optimized food serving system that operates through data-driven interactions. It also is designed to minimize the risk of accidents on flights when there is turbulence while passengers are being served.

Flykert team Ignacio Lay (left) and Juan Pablo Mascaretti present their plan for FlykeART, a lighter, smarter cart for airplanes, earlier this year during the Schurz Communications Innovation Challenge at The Anvil at Purdue University. FlykeArt finished in the top 10 in the International Business Model Competition held earlier this month at Brigham Young University. (Purdue Research Foundation image/Yuqing (Nick) Wang) Download image

Members of Global Sign, which is working to encourage mainstream organizations to make themselves more accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing, said the competition was another learning experience.

“We are constantly working to make Global Sign better and we come away from each competition with new ideas and feedback,” said Heya Kaakeh, a Global Sign founder and a senior in the School of Mechanical Engineering.

The other Global Sign team members are Yasmeen Hafeez, who recently graduated from the Krannert School of Management; and Seba Kaakeh, a biochemistry major who will be a senior in the College of Agriculture.

More than 8,000 student startups took part in the competition, which started with competitions at universities around the world. Teams from Myanmar, Jamaica, Malaysia, the West Indies, India and Japan took part in the competition at BYU. FlykeART was selected by the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship to represent Purdue and Global Sign earned an at-large berth.

“It was great to see two teams from Purdue finish in the top 20 against such prestigious competition,” said Arnold Chen, managing director of the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. “The only other American university to do that was host BYU. It’s a clear indication of the vibrant student startup ecosystem we have here at Purdue.”

The trips by the two Purdue teams were sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship. The two teams also participated in coaching sessions and workshops facilitated by the center to help them prepare for the competition. Roh also is enrolled in the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation

“We are thankful for the mentors that have helped us along the way, and the great support that we received from the Burton D. Morgan Center,” Seba Kaakeh said.

Global Sign previously took first place in the Burton D. Morgan Center’s Business Model Competition in the Social Entrepreneurship track in February, as well as winning the Schurz Innovation Challenge in March. FlykeART won the The Anvil’s Boiler Demo Day competition, took second in the Schurz Innovation Challenge and third in the Business Model Competition business-to-business track.

“We are absolutely grateful for all the support and trust we got from the Burton D. Morgan Center, the Purdue Foundry, and all associated organizations,” Roh said. “It was a really humbling moment for us to be able to represent Purdue and do well.”

Teams pitched their business ideas to various panels of judges at each stage of the competition. The final round of the competition was judged by the keynote speakers, who also got the chance to address the teams and offer advice.

The FlykeART members are Roh; Juan Pablo Mascaretti, a senior in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics; Ignacio Lay, a junior in supply chain management in the Polytechnic Institute; Federico Brandt, a junior computer engineering major in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering;and Mason Pellegrini, a doctoral student in rhetoric and composition in the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts.

FlykeART is looking for potential partners, venture capitalists, and investors who are interested in collaborating with FlykeART. Those interested are invited to contact Roh at

About the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship

Discovery Park’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship is Purdue University’s gateway for innovation and entrepreneurship on campus. It houses a number of programs and competitions for student and faculty entrepreneurs designed to encourage innovation and discover big ideas that have potential to benefit society. The Burton D. Morgan Center works closely with the Purdue Foundry and Purdue Ventures to enhance the university’s robust entrepreneurial ecosystem and to provide meaningful access to capital and talent for Purdue entrepreneurs. The center also houses the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, which is administered through Purdue’s Office of the Provost, and is the primary vehicle for delivering entrepreneurship education to over 1,800 students across campus each year.

Writer: Zeina Kayyali,

Purdue Research Foundation contact: Tom Coyne, 765-588-1044,

Sources: Arnold Chen, 

Yuhan Roh,

Heya Kaakeh,

Seba Kaakeh,

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