Students at Trinity College’s recent Summit Innovation Challenge presented new inventions designed as part of a fellowship that gets them thinking critically and creatively about solving real-world problems.
Students taking part in the Tyree Innovation Fellowship—a two-year student experience that builds innovative and entrepreneurial mindsets—meet weekly to identify problems in their world that they would like to solve. They then iterate through prototypes to a pitch presentation in front of a live audience and judges in a “Shark Tank”-style finale.
This year’s student inventions presented at the January 25 Summit Innovation Challenge included those that address food planning for caregivers, education for the visually impaired, and AI-enabled robotic teacher aids for remote regions of the world.
The winning invention from among this year’s Tyree Innovation Fellows was Savor Sensor, created by Nate Park ’27. Savor Sensor is a small device that detects allergens in food using a spectrometer. The runner-up was the Serenity App, presented by Abdulmohaymen Ghanaem ’27, Joshua Manswell ’27, and Raphael Ralston ’27. Serenity is an app that aims to help informal caregivers provide healthy, nutritious meals for their loved ones.
Trinity students also presented six “ready for market” products. The winner in this portion of the competition was Alexander Cacciato ’25, whose Flippit℠ is an early-stage startup that uses mobile technologies to allow air travelers to send prohibited items to themselves quickly and securely rather than surrender them at security checkpoints. The runner-up was Nathan Sykes ’25, whose The People Company embeds offshore talent into domestic sales teams to shoulder a company’s administrative burden.
“The idea for Flippit originated when I lost my Swiss Army knife at a TSA checkpoint at Dulles Airport,” Cacciato said. “That got us thinking, ‘Shouldn’t there be a way for people to keep their stuff?’”
Cacciato added, “I was surprised and humbled by the jury’s decision. There were so many great start-ups presented that I can’t imagine it was easy for them to render a decision. That’s a testament to the strong program the Entrepreneurship Center is building with the leadership of Executive Director Danny Briere and his fabulous team.”
Launched in September 2022, the Entrepreneurship Center embraces Trinity’s liberal arts curriculum and engages students in co-curricular and extracurricular learning experiences. “The Challenge really represents the front end of that process, teaching creativity, invention, and innovation skillsets so students can go on and engage in entrepreneurship programming later in their Trinity careers,” Briere said. “More than anything else, the Challenge teaches students to look at the world around them through a different lens. We want students to walk away with a view towards creative problem-solving, seeing the problems in the world around them and having the confidence to tackle solving them.”
The Summit Innovation Challenge is the marquee program of the Tyree Innovation Fellowship, which was recently endowed by Kathryn George Tyree ’86, a founding member of the Entrepreneurship Center’s Advisory Board. It helps students advance their college and post-college careers, no matter their intended major or direction, by providing the framework to learn the skills, tools, and connections necessary to thrive in college and beyond. This is a competitive admission program and students must be accepted to take part.
Beyond the Tyree Innovation Fellowship, students who wish to pursue more intense applications of these skills and start their own companies have support to do so through the Center.
Throughout the invention process, the fellows received guidance from their mentors, Entrepreneurship Center entrepreneurs-in-residence Rick Cleary ’85 and Reid Lewis, Doug Klinger ’86, and Steve Woodworth ’93.
The judges for this year’s Summit Innovation Challenge were Funston Trustee Shay Ajayi ’16, Trustee Liz Elting ’87, John Howard ’74, P’27, Tom Lazay ’95, Trustee Lou Shipley ’85, and Kathryn George Tyree ’86.
This was the second year of Summit Innovation Challenge, which was sponsored this year the Beba Foundation. The Challenge is supported by curriculum and staff from the Connecticut Invention Convention, which has encouraged K-12 student inventors for more than 40 years.
The other Tyree Innovation Fellows who competed in the finale were Ollie Lamadieu ’27 (ELEMN2T: a tablet that dissolves into soap, shampoo, and conditioner and includes a lifetime shatterproof bottle); Sabin Limbu ’27 (Blindaz Bildung, a learning device for visually impaired children); and Denise Pedraza ’27 and Su Dararat ’27 (ED, a robotic assistant designed to elevate the educational landscape in remote and under-resourced communities around the globe).
This year’s other “ready for market” competitors were Rico Buoro ’26 and Cam Sweedler ’24 (GLDN Threads, a retro apparel company for college students); Brooks Gammill ’24 (RecruitU, a two-sided marketplace for finance recruitment); Kami Nader ’24 (CollegeBites, a mobile platform for students at participating universities to receive exclusive deals from the local businesses); and Enock Niyonkuru ’24 (FloraAmigo, a smart planter that combines nature, technology, and psychological well-being).
“You can feel the momentum growing across campus around our innovation and entrepreneurship efforts,” Briere said. “Many students are regularly attending our events and bringing their friends along, growing our base of engaged students. And the alumni and parents are equally engaging. The Center has become a true rallying point for those seeking to take the Trinity experience to a next level of innovation and entrepreneurship, all across campus.”