Business plan competition goes virtual, tackles eruption recovery


Four teams of students from the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Hawaii Community College competed remotely from home locations as far away as Spain, Mexico, Washington and California to develop app-based solutions to aid in the recovery from the 2018 Kilauea eruption.

The globally distributed students in turn were mentored from remote locations as far away as Bangladesh, San Francisco and North Carolina.

The Hawaii Island Business Plan Competition took place last week, and $5,300 in cash prizes was awarded to winning teams:

  • First Place ($2,500) went to Makamae Kamaka-Mauhili, Brian McMichael, Karly Requelman and Zoe Whitney of The Repair Crew for their Home Raisers App
  • Second Place ($1,500) went to Kevianna Adams, Santos Gutierez, Ryen Helzer and Catherine Kane-Paulo of CommUnity Inc. for their Coconut Grove App
  • Third Place ($1,000) went to Luca Checchia Adell, Casey Chow, Kevin Oh and Jena Shidaki of Double D for their Disaster Defense App
  • Fourth Place ($300) went to Alan Cincunegui Corres, Kapaiaʻalaopuna Earle and Garnett Stone Jr. of Second Responders for their Second Wave App.

“We were all set to run this hackathon when COVID-19 shut down schools, so many of the students returned home to far-flung places around the globe, but we realized that we could run the hack remotely with BizzyB,” said Jason Ueki, Executive Director of HIplan. “The most surprising thing for me is that our hack turned into a truly global event with both students and mentors collaborating from remote locations around the world.”

“This is a game-changer,” said mentor Phillipe Rosse. “The quality of ideas and attention to detail generated concepts that are infinitely more mature than your average hackathon contest. This takes hacks and STEM education to new heights.”

The goal of any hackathon is to challenge students to address real-world problems, Rosse said. In this case, that problem was Kilauea Volcano eruption recovery efforts facing Hawaii County. By participating in hands-on concept development activities, students learned leadership, collaboration, creative problem-solving and other “soft skills” that are increasingly in demand in today’s business world.

“When schools began closing due to Coronavirus, we made BizzyB entirely free for the rest of the school year,” said Bizgenics Foundation Chairman Steve Sue. “The HIplan Hackathon is a smart, forward-looking application of BizzyB’s Contest Module, created to serve in-class challenges, hackathons, business plan competitions and accelerators.”

“We’re happy to support HIplan and other producers of innovation-based learning programs,” Sue added.

Judges included Melanie Wilson, Dean of Liberal Arts & Public Services at HawCC, tech entrepreneur Steve Sakoman of Steve Sakoman Inc., and Chris Rehkamp, former Program Manager at the Digital Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland.

Mentors included Director of Accelerator Operations at Elemental Excelerator Sherrie Totoki in San Francisco, Consulting Organization, Learning Leader, Louise Lorton in North Carolina, Phillipe Rosse from RFP Match, North Carolina.

Facilitators included local entrepreneur Mike Nakamura, former tech executive Wayne Morris, and retired tech professional Walter McCoy.

BizzyB’s approach combines self-directed learning, 4Cs learning (Creativity, Critical-Thinking, Collaboration & Communication), STEM learning (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) and SEL (Social Emotional Learning). The result is an online innovation Concept Canvas where student teams collaborate on five essential themes of an innovation project.

This canvas supports remote collaboration via sidebar comment channels, built-in feedback surveys, a pitch deck builder and showcase presentation functions. Mentors can view team content and advise remotely from anywhere, anytime. Outcomes are reported through contest public pages and through individual student portfolios that feature project summaries, awards, certifications, badges and Soft Skill assessments.

The event was sponsored by Kamehameha Schools, Ulupono Initiative, County of Hawaii, UH Hilo, and Hawaii Community College. It was produced by HIplan and the nonprofit Bizgenics Foundation.

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