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2018 Winners Announced: Montle Prize for Entrepreneurial Achievement & the Ideas Competition

2018 Montle Prize & Ideas Competition Winners

The Tufts Entrepreneurship Center is proud to present the winners from the 2018 Paul and Elizabeth Montle Prize for Entrepreneurial Achievement and the Ideas Competition held December 30th.

The Montle Prize for Entrepreneurial Achievement is an annual competition that helps kick-start future leaders in the business and non-profit world. Paul Montle, a 1969 alumnus, created the award to commend outstanding Tufts students who demonstrate entrepreneurial skills.

The Tufts Ideas Competition is designed for early stage business ideas. Winners will receive a $1,000 cash prize, mentorship and invitations to attend a robust series of workshops covering topics such as start-up legal considerations, funding and creating an effective pitch. Open to Tufts students, faculty and staff, the competition provides individuals with validation and support for a business idea.

This year, the Tufts Entrepreneurship Center received a record number of applicants, increasing the level of competition. A select group of finalists were invited on December 30th to pitch their startups to a panel of judges, receive feedback, and answer challenging questions from judges.

We’re happy to present the recipients of the 2018 awards!

The Paul & Elizabeth Montle Prize of Entrepreneurial Achievement CarTrek 

Team: Olive Baerde, Mikayla Rose

Montle Prize Winner: CarTrek team members

CarTrek provides the cheapest method for students and young alumni to travel, by connecting drivers and riders to carpool. In doing so, we facilitate a greater sense of community while saving travelers money.

We are solving a double-sided problem: for the riders, we provide a community-based traveling option that is much more convenient and economical compared to buses and trains. For drivers, we help optimize their empty seats to earn back their gas money and help make that drive home a little less monotonous. CarTrek helps riders and drivers enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

CarTrek is a platform (currently a website, soon to be an app) that connects students traveling in the same direction. Students with cars are able to sell their extra seats based on a suggested price provided by CarTrek, then riders can connect, knowing they can trust CarTrek’s network of current college students and recent alumni that have been screened through check of Facebook, college IDs, and emails.


Team: Daniel Lewis, Covie Goh, Etienne Denis

Montle Prize 2018 Winner: Podium team members

Podium democratizes journalism by allowing users to create their own news, not just consume it. Podium provides a virtual platform for users to participate in virtual town halls and crowdsourced interviews of all shapes and sizes.

Avenues for interaction between users and influencers are non-civil, non-streamlined, and often, non-informative. Non-civil because the anonymity of the internet leads to a toxic culture of virulent opinions hiding behind a keyboard. Non-streamlined because interacting with influencers is equivalent to throwing a handful of darts at a dart board while wearing a blindfold. And non-informative because these avenues are not incentivized to inform but to addict. The internet needs a platform that is all three—a town hall.

Podium is the next evolution in town halls—it brings the age-old forum of civic engagement online in a way never before seen. It creates a space for civil interaction by facilitating face-to-face communication between users and influencers. Podium streamlines these interactions by ensuring only the questions that the public actually want to hear are answered. With Podium, virtual interviews are opened a week in advance for users to submit questions in the form of 10-15 second video clips. Users will spend the week leading-up to the interview voting on and submitting these questions. Come interview time, the person being interviewed will be able to pick up their phone, and record themselves responding directly to the five crowdsourced questions with the most votes—facilitating near face-to-face interaction between a politician and their constituents or a celebrity and their fans. It’s a talk show, hosted by us. Podium provides a civil platform by forcing everyone to put their face to their words, lifting the veil of online anonymity and consequential toxicity. It’s a streamlined platform because the only content on it is the crowdsourced interviews created by the users–a library of virtual town halls stored all in one place. Finally, it’s an informative platform, because it is focused on actually getting answers for the questions that people see as most important to them.

To the Waters 

Team: Magnifique Mukundwa

Montle Prize 2018 Winner: To the Waters team member

There is no life without safe water. Water is a human right, yet 780 million people around the world still do not have access to an improved water source. To the Waters aims to end this discrepancy observed in rural areas in developing nations starting with Kabare sector in Rwanda.

In the summer of 2017, I was fortunate to go back home and did an internship with Clinton Development Initiative where I was able to travel to the Eastern Province of Rwanda. While driving, I would see people with bicycles with so many water containers that we call jerricans. These people were on their way going to fetch water from unprotected sources, rivers, marshlands, etc. In addition to unimproved sources of water, the Eastern Province of Rwanda is very dry, which means water scarcity is a big problem. This makes many households fetch water from any source because we all need water to survive. This contaminated water exposes these people to waterborne diseases that can easily be fought with safe water. I came back to the States with hope that I could be part of the solution to this problem. I took classes that taught me about water, sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition and decided that this is what I want to do for life. I want to increase water access to the disadvantaged in this world starting with Rwanda without forgetting the relationship between water, sanitation, hygiene, and nutrition.

Specifically, To the Waters would like to start with Kabare sector located in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. Kabare sector has 7936 households with 35,536 residents, yet only 75% have access to a water source where most of them are not improved sources. Particularly, there are 5 villages in this sector without water sources at all, which makes residents walk at least 2 km to collect water. And, some households decide to use water from dams that are originally purposed for irrigation because they do not have other options. In addition, there are at least three water sources that need to be repaired because they are vulnerable to contamination especially when it rains. All of these problems have been persistent because of financial challenges of residents of this Kabare. I would like to take part in ending this through To the Waters.

As our first project about water provision, we hope to partner with companies in Rwanda to drill sustainable boreholes starting with the sector of Kabare. In addition, some villages in Kabare have water sources that need renovation because they are vulnerable to contamination. Thus, we hope to first focus on building 5 new wells and repairing 3 wells in Kabare Sector in Rwanda. In addition, we hope to combine water provision with education about training households about the significance of using safe water especially about the point of use water treatment methods such as boiling, washing containers, covering water, chlorine products, etc. Households in rural areas tend to not care about the quality of water because they are not informed about the fact that they can get diseases through drinking untreated water. So, talking about different affordable ways to treat water is also one of our goals.

Ideas Competition Kognyxion 

Team: Jeffrey Bui, Shaikat Islam, Robert Yang, Tristan Spratt

Montle Prize 2018 Winner: Kognyxion team members

We want you to do more than just dreaming while you sleep. We want you to live your dreams while you’re awake by helping you sleep. We are creating a device that will optimize your sleep with research-backed technology.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, “45% of Americans say that poor or insufficient sleep affected their daily activities at least once in the past seven days.” As a result, “more than one half of the U.S. population has taken a nap within the past seven days.” Everyone has suffered from lack of sleep at one point or another in their lives. Sleep issues have become such an integral part of our lives that people generally assume they cannot be solved. Most people reluctantly welcome the dark circles under their eyes, and accept that quality sleep is a rare occurrence. We aim to improve people’s sleep. We want to provide a solution to improving sleep, but also influence how we sleep in order to optimize the time of those who use our product. The market opportunity that exists for our product is virtually ubiquitous given the current number of IoT users (forecasted to reach 3 billion potential consumers) and the reality that sleep is perhaps the one constant that is ensured in everybody’s life. By utilizing this market demographic with our novel, yet practical technology, we have the ability to reach a market share uninhibited by any other competitors.

The idea that sleeping for 20 minutes will make you feel much better has been heavily popularized and practiced. During naps, stage 1 of sleep occurs. Sleeping any longer can put result in the next stage of sleep (deep sleep). Waking up during this can cause sleep inertia which causes one to feel groggy upon waking up. A sleep cycle consists of 5 stages. Therefore, waking up during the stage 1, or at the end of the 5th stage is optimal when trying to get up. Our solution covers two things: 1. Optimal Wake-up time We will use an EEG (electroencephalogram) to make sure users wake up as feeling as good as possible. This adaptive waking system would have two modes. A full sleep mode for waking up individuals at the end of cycles for the smoothest transition from sleep to wakefulness. Secondly, nap mode to wake users up before reaching deep sleep to reduce sleep inertia. 2. Fall asleep better + improve sleep quality We want to use TDCS (Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation) which (is also proven to NOT be harmful) delivers very low levels of electricity to specific areas. This will be used to promote relaxation to users can fall asleep sooner. Research has also shown that receiving electrical stimulation during sleep can improve its quality. Moreover we will first conduct research for determining the optimal way we can measure brain waves with EEGs as well as our tDCS functionalities.


Team: James Aronson

2018 Winner Ideas Competition: UCharge team members

Tired of realizing that your portable charger no longer has a charge? Use UCharge, a portable battery that employs a momentum charger to always ensure you have the power you need.

Current portable chargers are divided between electronic power storage and solar energy generation. While electronic power storage solutions are now widely available for cheap, they often lose their charge especially in the cold conditions faced by hikers/mountaineers. Furthermore, in the case that the charge is depleted, they lack a way to be charged in the outdoors. Solar solutions can theoretically be charged in the outdoors. However, most portable solar panels in sizes appropriate for hiking aren’t effective. They require extended periods of direct exposure to sunlight to even fractionally charge a mobile phone. In addition, they add extra weight and bulk to a hiker and prone to damage.

UCharge hopes to address these challenges. It would be a lightweight portable charger. Similarly to electronic energy storage devices, it could be charged at home via a USB. However, like solar panels, it can be charged in the field. In this case, it relies on momentum charging. As the hiker walks, the device will be constantly charging, because it doesn’t rely on sunlight.


Team: James Aronson, Chang Ge, Rodney Liao, Firas Mouasher

2018 Winner Ideas Competition: VacuuSafe team members

Cost-effective and simple without compromising quality, VacuuSafe caps introduce a better tool to aid drug discovery research, sample preservation for process development and field research applications

Research labs around the world are constantly facing problems preserving materials and samples. In the biopreservation space, lyophilization and cryostorage are often used together to preserve samples for extended periods of time. However, on top of often decreasing the function of some samples, lyophilization is a time intensive process that usually takes between 24 and 48 hrs. Furthermore, to then use a sample that has been lyophilized, it must be carefully reconstituted (returned to solution). While this process is effective for long term storage, it is inefficient to store samples for short to medium lengths of time. As can be imagined, frequently needed samples would have to be reconstituted before every use and then lyophilized before being returned to storage. In addition, from surveying those working in the lab space, we found that when samples were compromised, they were overwhelmingly thrown out, and the researcher was forced to restart the process. This means that any time spent preparing the original samples must be repeated and new materials must be purchased.

Our solution, VacuuSafe, is a two-stage cap that greatly simplifies short to midterm storage and stabilization process. The cap interfaces with standard vacuum lines found in every lab, allowing for simple vacuum evacuation of the tube volume (e.g. standard 50mL Falcon Tube). The two stages, one pressure driven and one mechanical, allows the samples to be kept under vacuum without introducing additional binders or stabilizing agents. Some research has shown that by storing samples under vacuum, their shelf life can be increased 20-50%. In some cases, the shelf life was actually increased over 2x. Furthermore, a simple mechanical means to evacuate conical tubes of all air also allows for a significant expansion of conical tube utility in that it introduces the possibility of gaseous and pressure-testing of biological samples or cell lines.