Abhinav Sikharam, a master’s student in the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) program at the School of Informatics and Computing, has a talent for cultivating new ideas and sharing them with others. In April of last year, he won the 2020 Jagstart Pitch Competition at IUPUI and then in fall 2020 he was runner up in the Three Minute Pitch (3MP) competition, sponsored by the Graduate Office at IUPUI.
The 3MP competition is for master’s and professional students and is an oral presentation of a thesis with one slide. Sixteen students took part during the Graduate Office’s annual Preparing Future Faculty and Professionals Conference. Sikharam’s presentation “LifesavAR, an augmented reality triage tag,” proposes a technology-enabled improvement to traditional paper triage tags used by medical responders at the scene of a mass casualty incident. Personnel would be able to communicate a patient status in real-time to hospitals before transporting, allowing preparations to be made in advance of arrival.
Davide Bolchini, chair of the Human-Centered Computing department, said, “We’re proud of Abhinav’s achievements in designing and showcasing new HCI solutions to the important mission-critical tasks of medical emergency responders. He has shown in exemplary ways how our students are educated to blend information technology, experience design, and business acumen to explore impactful and innovative ideas.”
Sikharam also joined a long line of past School of Informatics and Computing participants and winners of Jagstart, with his innovation, “Project Ma.” Project Ma is a smart desk device paired with an interactive mobile application which nudges the user to stay active, hydrated, and focused during their day while working at their desks. It’s a product designed to improve lifestyle of desk-bound workers, who usually have a sedentary lifestyle.
“As an HCI designer, I know how to design the products using the design process but wasn’t sure of the entrepreneurial way to launch or what decisions or parameters would go to launch a business. Fortunately, I learned that IUPUI is encouraging students to learn and launch their ideas into reality through Jagstart competition and that is why I got involved,” Sikharam said.
To prepare for the Pitch, participants were guided through weekly webinars on topics ranging from Design Thinking to Creating a Business Model. They were also matched with mentors—experienced professionals working in the industry—to create and refine their presentations. Sikharam was matched with Bob Flynn, CEO of Deflecto, based in Indianapolis. Of course, last year presented an additional challenge to the students and mentors.
“The most challenging part that I faced was the transition of the sessions and one-on-one meetings with mentors from in-class to completely online with the COVID pandemic. The competition also had to move to online mode and we weren’t sure of how were we going to present our pitches and collaborating was a little tricky in the beginning, but ultimately we got adjusted and we were able to pull off with the competition as planned,” Sikharam said.
After graduation, Sikharam plan to continue to design innovative products that can benefit people in their day-to-day lives and improve their living standards. Sikharam’s advice to others considering Jagstart is that Jagstart is not just a competition, but also a journey to learn entrepreneurial skills. “Even if you don’t have any business idea or have questions such as where to start or how would I proceed? Don’t worry, just take the first step to join the competition. Professors, organizers, and mentors are always available to guide you to level up your business skills and make the next big thing a reality,” he said.