SIU drives innovation with the Saluki Pitch competition and IDEA LAB 2021

September 23, 2021

SIU drives innovation with the Saluki Pitch competition and IDEA LAB 2021

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois University Carbondale continues to promote innovation and creative entrepreneurship.

As winners are announced for the recent Saluki Pitch 2021 competition where ideas turned into money, registration is underway for IDEA LAB 2021, where entrants can take their ideas to the next level and compete for funding.

“The ideas presented at this year’s Saluki Pitch competition were both innovative and unique,” ​​said Deborah Barnett, director of the business incubator program. “As an extension of the pitch competition, pitch participants, as well as anyone else, have the opportunity to further develop their concepts through IDEA Lab 2021, a six-week program designed to help innovators move from the stage of idea to a real business plan. Everyone is welcome to participate in the program, which can also benefit current business owners looking to grow or move in a new direction.

The registration deadline for IDEA Lab is Tuesday, September 28 at 9 a.m. Additional information and online registration are available at

Constant is the best competitor of the Saluki Pitch 2021

Zavi Constant, a civil engineering graduate, took top honors and $ 750 in the Saluki Pitch competition, along with CROWD, a crowdfunding app that small groups can use to raise money for a common goal. The app has a variety of uses – whether it’s roommates pooling money to pay rent, friends or family contributing to pay for vacations, or coworkers combining their resources for a common purpose. Constant also won the crowd favorite vote to claim an additional $ 250.

Kayeleigh Sharp, SIU alumnus and employee, won second place and the $ 500 prize. Sharp is the founder of EduCultureXR, which brings together education, culture and virtual reality by creating virtual hands-on archeology exhibits and cultural experiences and making them accessible to the community.

Innovation winners

The competition, held virtually this year, also honored innovation, with the winners each receiving $ 250. These winners, with project descriptions, were:

  • Nelson Fernandes, senior mechanical engineer and member of the SIU Green Team, for a simplified guide to building temporary and inexpensive wind turbines largely from household items. The turbines would provide power to charge phones and other small electronics when needed, proving particularly beneficial in areas of the world where blackouts are common.
  • Tyler Knupp, a senior computer scientist, for his concept of helping the animation industry by combining concepts from various 3D modeling programs to smoothly incorporate virtual reality full body tracking into 3D animation using motion capture of keyframe animations for editing.

The student organization registered with the SIU Saluki Entrepreneurship Corps, in collaboration with the SIU Research Park and Business Incubator programs, sponsored the event. Over 30 people participated in the pre-competition pitch competition workshop.

Register now for IDEA LAB to win funding

IDEA LAB 2021 offers community members and faculty, staff, student entrepreneurs, as well as participants in the Saluki Pitch competition, the opportunity to push their concepts further by creating viable business plans.

The free weekly sessions will take place on Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 28 Sep-Nov 2. The sessions will provide all the information needed to establish business plans and participants will be able to compete for funding of up to $ 10,000 in a business plan competition that will be announced in October.

Participants can join the sessions online or in person at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center, 1740 Innovation Drive in Carbondale. Sessions will cover market research, financial planning and projections, strategy and more, presented via step-by-step instructions.

Program sponsors include SIU Research Park, SIU Business Incubator, and Illinois Small Business Development Center at SIU.

The SIU is committed to protecting the community, so anyone attending IDEA LAB 2021 in person should follow current campus and state pandemic safety protocols and wear masks.

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