Our student innovation teams connect now to next.

Every student team that represents UNC-Chapel Hill at the ACC InVenture Prize competition has a unique idea. But they all share many of the same qualities: curiosity, a passion for progress, a commitment to hard work, and a forward-looking vision that helps them connect what’s now to what’s next. Read about the student innovators whose ideas rose to the top in Chapel Hill and who traveled to Atlanta to put their ideas up against the competition from other schools. Will your team be next?

When a class assignment challenged five Carolina biomedical engineering students to find and solve a problem in health care, they chose to focus on premature infants suffering from necrotizing enterocolitis — a disease that damages intestinal tissue and poses a devastating 30 to 50 percent mortality rate.

Their solution came in the form of a medical device that could accurately monitor necrotizing enterocolitis symptoms to catch complications before it’s too late.

“It wasn’t that there are no treatments that exist,” said Megan Anderson, a Carolina senior. “There are treatments, both surgical and non-surgical, but we’re not getting patients to the treatments in time, which is particularly frustrating because we have the tools we need to save their lives but we can’t get the diagnosis we need.”

When tasked with conceiving a new business for their Introduction to Entrepreneurship class, five Carolina students decided to tap into the annoyance that many college students face — doing laundry in their residence halls.

“Whenever you take your clothes out, sometimes they’re not dry enough or sometimes they’re too hot so they shrink,” said Nicolas Schwartz, a sophomore and member of the five-student team. “Another problem is people come and take your clothes out of your dryer. Everyone hates it. Everyone dreads it.”

To tackle the irritation, the group launched LaundrFi, a company whose product of the same name aims to bring outdated dryers into the 21st century by wirelessly connecting them to a smartphone app that provides up-to-date status on the laundry.

Ela Hazar, Ellie Dannenberg, Hanna Hepburn, Allen Cater and Nicolas Schwarz represented Carolina at the ACC InVenture Prize competition with their venture that modernizes the chore of laundry.

It was just a conversation between friends in a dorm room three years ago. How could utilizing online-giving platforms provide a better Christmas for needy kids?

Our big hypothesis is that giving feels better than receiving,” Carolina senior Thomas Doochin said. “All the science shows this.”

That idea led four Carolina students to start CommuniGift, and then to head out to Los Angeles to launch a new birthday platform on the West Coast. Now, they are heading to Atlanta, where the team will pit their company against some of the best student-built startups in the country.

Selected to represent the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CommuniGift joined teams from all 15 Atlantic Coast Conference universities in the innovation pitch competition at Georgia Tech with $30,000 of prize money up for grabs. After the first day of competition, CommuniGift advanced to the final round, where the team will compete against the other top four groups in the competition.

CommuniGift co-founders Thomas Doochin and Zach Newbauer talk to children at a birthday party hosted by their venture.