SparkTank 2024

SparkTank 2024

SparkTank, Brandeis Innovation’s signature startup pitch event was in a new location this year, but the energy, excitement and creativity were the same as always at the annual innovation competition. Marking the culmination of months of work refining their business ideas, developing their business models, and in some cases, developing viable prototypes, SparkTank is a celebration of startup energy on the Brandeis campus, in addition to being a chance for Spark participants to showcase their inventions.

Nine teams pitched their ideas this year, in industries from AI to consumer travel products. Although the teams each addressed different consumer or global needs, they were unified in their focus on finding creative solutions grounded in solid research on their customers’ needs and wants. Teams included Jellyfish, an AI helpdesk solution that aims to make it easier for IT techs to solve user problems with the aid of large language models, the type of technology that powers ChatGPT. Global Internship Hub aims to make it more efficient for international students to find relevant work and career development opportunities. Virtual Gymnastics Coach allows gymnasts to get AI-powered feedback on their performance from everywhere with a convenient app, making it easier for aspiring athletes to progress their skills. Each of these teams is working to solve age-old challenges with AI or data-driven solutions that reflect forward-thinking and practical applications of cutting-edge technology.

Social impact was as strong a theme this year as it has been in years past. StreetScape, a tactical street map puzzle for visually-impaired children, helps students develop spatial awareness in a fun way. Re:threads aims to make the fashion industry more sustainable with a marketplace for thrifted goods plus innovative packaging that utilizes invasive tree species in compostable shipping products. These startups reflect the Brandeis mission to repair the world, bringing advanced technology to improving lives and the planet.

Advancing the workforce through streamlined processes was another major trend among participants this year. Winners QuickSlot Health, the idea of Hisham Issak ‘24 and Jason Tothy ‘24, took first place with their platform that promises to automate medical charting, freeing practitioners’ time to engage more with patients. Taking second place was Candor, a video game designed to teach about bullying, in development by Tara Opalinski MA COEX/MBA SID ‘24. Third-place winners Labor Lingo, created by Andrey Gonzalez-Baeza ‘25 and Rebecca Leon ‘24, provides real-time translations with an industry-specific vocabulary to construction teams, reducing the chances of accidents, delays, and cost overruns for construction projects and reducing exclusion from opportunities for Lantinx workers. Audience favorite went to TravelGo, an innovative travel pillow prototype designed by Sofiia Tarasiuk,MBA ‘24; Marisa Lala, MBA ‘24, and Jiaye Tang, BA ‘24.

Distinguished judges included alumni Elizabeth Nguyen, MBA/MA SID'20, Leo Guyshan ‘10, and Shawn Broderick ‘88, who were joined by local business leader Lysa Miller of the Metrowest Women’s Network. The judging panel was led by Associate Provost for Innovation Rebecca Menapace

The event also included opportunities for networking and mentorship, with judges and other attendees providing valuable feedback and advice to the participating teams. This not only helps the teams improve their pitches and business ideas, but also creates connections and potential partnerships that can help propel these startups forward.

The success of SparkTank reflects Brandeis University's commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship among its students. By providing resources, support, and a platform for students to showcase their ideas and solutions, Brandeis is helping to shape the next generation of leaders and change-makers in various industries. As we continue to face new challenges in our rapidly evolving world, it is imperative that we encourage and support innovative thinking and problem-solving.