DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 10, 2017) – A Daytona State College duo of Information Technology bachelor's degree students leveraged their ingenuity, technical expertise and a bit of DSC entrepreneurial team takes 2nd place in Cairns Innovation Challengehutzpah to land second place in the annual Cairns Innovation Challenge held April 5 at DSC's Advanced Technology College.

The event is a prestigious competition where students from Central Florida-area colleges and universities vie for top honors and a chance to bring their own commercially viable inventions and products to market. In this year's finals, two DSC teams went up against five finalist teams from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, with top honors going to an ERAU team that developed a prototype for a full-range orthotic knee brace.

"One should never underestimate the power of an idea or a single individual," said James Cairns in setting the stage for the event. "The Innovation Challenge is based on two principles. First, we want to identify bright and energetic students who have interesting projects for potential commercialization. Second, we want to start a movement to drag the technology out of these institutions of higher learning and into public use, with the hopes of creating jobs and revenue for our area."

For their second-place win, Brendan Tackney and Sheldon Pasciak earned $5,000 in seed money, plus one year of enrollment support at the UCF Volusia County Business Incubator. The two will graduate this spring with their bachelor's degree and an advanced technical certificate in Web Applications Development.

Their Smart Sign Technology software system allows users to remotely customize and control content on digital signs from their mobile devices. The technology can be applied in retail, education, banking, hospitality and heath care settings, to name just a few.

"With our technology, when a visitor to your building or a customer of your store walks up to a smart sign, they simply connect to it through the Internet and enter its unique ID PIN," said Pasciak in pitching the product to Cairns judges. "At that moment, their mobile phone has a by-name, by-category menu of everything on that digital sign. Then, all they have to do is select exactly the information they want to see and it instantly shows up on the screen. This eliminates the problem a typical digital sign has where it cycles all the information one by one, greatly limiting the amount of information the sign can have, not to mention the wait time for the viewer."

It's not the first time the pair have been successful in such competitions. They consistently have success in various hackathons, popular events in which computer programmers and software developers team up on various projects in friendly competitions. Pasciak and Tackney recently won best web application honors for their Make America Safe Again app they built during a hackathon competition hosted by Stetson University. An interactive puzzle they developed also landed them a second-place prize in October's HackRiddle competition hosted by ERAU. Most recently, they have set up a Facebook page for their Smart Sign Technology project.

Over the past three years, DSC students competing in the Cairns Innovation Challenge have placed second, first and now again second with Hackney's and Pasciak's Smart Sign Technology showing. Students develop their projects during a capstone course they must take during the final year of their bachelor's degree in engineering technology or information technology. The course, led by Dr. Nabeel Yousef, challenges the students to use all the knowledge they've gained in their programs of study.

"Those that show the most merit may apply to enter the Innovation Challenge competition," he said. "The objective is not only about passing the course with an A or B, it is making sure that our students have the knowledge and skills to be hired and succeed in their work after they graduate."

Engineering Technology students Sean Davis and Zackary Myers also represented DSC in the Cairns competition with their Quick Clasp chord and rope clasping mechanism.

Last year, Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology students, now graduates, Caelan Hickman, Matthew Cresenzi and Matthew Morris were top winners. Hickman returned to this year's Cairns event to report on the progress his Sea 'N' Sol Shades partners have made developing their lightweight, portable, UV ray protective umbrella. The company is enhancing its prototype and beginning negotiations with retailers for product placement. They also hope to sell the product online once they begin moving toward manufacturing.

The competition is jointly sponsored by the Cairns Foundation, Volusia County, the University of Central Florida Business Incubator and the Hunter Foundation. A top prize of $10,000 plus a one-year resident enrollment in the UCF business incubator goes to the first-place winning team.

Each team is allotted 25 minutes to present its invention to a panel of judges and local investors. Each was evaluated based on the product's novelty, the attributes of the startup team, the size and potential market for the product, the quality of the team's development plan and ultimate path to market, and the suitability for near-term development of the product.



MORE: Offering more than 100 certificate, associate and bachelor’s degree programs, Daytona State College is the leader in education and workforce training needs of Volusia and Flagler counties and beyond for more than 60 years. The College enrolls nearly 25,000 students a year at its seven instructional sites, with graduates serving in critical fields including healthcare, emergency services/public safety, business, education, hospitality, engineering, technology, digital media, and more. 

Daytona State has been recognized as a leader in higher education numerous times, consistently by U.S. News & World Report, which ranks the College among the Top Tier Best Online Bachelor’s Programs. The U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center has ranked DSC among the top 50 most affordable public four-year institutions in the country, with less than half the tuition of the national average. Community College Week, a leading publication in higher education, annually continues to feature the college in its list of Top 100 Associate Degree Producers. And U.S. News & World Report has ranked DSC among its Top Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans multiple times.

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Chris Thomes,

Marketing & Communications,

A Member of the Florida College System

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