An entrepreneurial team of Florida Polytechnic University students has earned thousands of dollars in funding for the development of an innovative gesture-control device for electric longboards.
Seniors Aaron Apigo, Kevin Racktoo and David Terry were selected earlier this month as finalists for the Frank & Ellen Daveler Entrepreneurship Competition through the University of South Florida’s Center for Entrepreneurship.
The prestigious recognition earned them $3,000 and they also competed for a $5,000 prize through the program. Winners were announced April 24.
The team also recently walked away with a $2,500 microgrant for their creative invention at the 2021 Catapult LAUNCH Pitch Night in Lakeland on March 18.
The prize money will help them evolve their prototype and advance their business, dex. Interfaces.
“I feel fantastic. It’s amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish,” said Terry, a computer engineering major from Orlando.
Current longboard controls generally rely on traditional remote controls. Their invention, the dex. Glove, allows riders to easily, accurately and intuitively control their electric longboards with the flick of a wrist. With so many of their peers zipping across campus on longboards and skateboards, the team knew the potential for innovation in the space was real.
“It’s a beachhead market,” said Terry. “Whenever you’re pitching a big idea, you have to start small and prove your concept will work and your prototype is where it needs to be.”
Theirs was the only student team invited to the finals of Catapult’s Shark Tank-style event. Organizers were so impressed with all five competition pitches that each of the requests was fully-funded.
“Everyone there was an established business, which was a bit intimidating because we have an early-stage product,” said Racktoo, a computer engineering major from Ocala. “Our idea is sound, and we know that, so we wanted to present it and now we are going to use the money to develop a better prototype.”
Eventually, the group hopes the technology can be used in many high-tech devices across industries, including law enforcement and health care. They added the concept can also be helpful by making it easier for those with disabilities to use devices.
The team is also preparing to pitch the invention at the annual Governor’s Cup entrepreneurial competition later this spring.
Justin Heacock, entrepreneurship center coordinator at Florida Poly, said the team’s innovative idea and skill level are impressive.
“They applied their STEM knowledge in the creation of a prototype and then went above and beyond applying entrepreneurial skills to turn that idea into reality,” he said. “Catapult’s LAUNCH event and the Frank & Ellen Daveler Entrepreneurship Program are amazing opportunities and I’m so proud to see our community investing in student entrepreneurs.”