Developing Big Ideas

It may have begun as a failure, but that didn’t stop John Nogaj ’18 and Aaron DeSalvio from winning the 2019 Big Idea competition in April. While transporting lumber in their project’s prototype, they learned firsthand how difficult the process could be.

“There are a lot of unsafe practices people follow when hauling extended loads in pickup trucks, so it was apparent to us that there needed to be a simpler solution that worked well and was easy to set up,” Nogaj said.

That solution turned into their winning product, BAGG, which secures loads such as lumber in the back of a truck, earned them the $8,000 top award.

Nogaj, a mechanical engineering graduate, and DeSalvio, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, topped the six Big Idea finalists in the April wrap-up at the Peplow Pavilion. Participants gave a 10-minute presentation about their products and business plans, including cost and financial estimates. Then there was a five-minute Q and A session with a panel of judges.

Presentations and business plans were ranked on factors including feasibility, identifying a problem and solution and market definition.

“One of the most satisfying elements was the organic way students formed teams,” said Ken Klotz, managing director of the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which sponsors the competition for students and alumni. “Most teams were comprised of students from different majors . . . all five colleges and the Graduate School were also represented.”

DYME, a social platform allowing clothes rentals for formal occasions, won the $5,000 second prize while Postal Patrol, a secure box for deliveries accessible by a QR code, placed third and won $2,000. The top three also will receive free consultations with a law firm and a CPA.

Other entries and awards were:

  • The Locals, which pairs travelers and local guides, fourth place, $1,000
  • WHIP, campus ride-sharing app, fifth place, $500
  • Pup Date, mobile phone app for pet owners to match similar animals so pets wouldn’t be alone for long periods, $500

— Bob Grimson ’81