Kaitlyn Schoen, who took first prize in UNE's second annual Student Innovation Challenge, is congratulated by UNE President Danielle Ripich.
Kaitlyn Schoen (left), the winner of UNE’s second annual Student Innovation Challenge, with UNE President Danielle Ripich. (Photo/UNE)

The University of New England on April 2 held its second annual Student Innovation Challenge, a competition for full-time UNE students with idea-stage enterprises.

Six finalists pitched their business ideas — which were to offer innovative solutions to social, environmental and health issues facing society — to a panel of judges on Saturday. The top three finishers received a combined $10,000 and technical support to further their work on their business ideas.

Kaitlyn Schoen, a health, wellness and occupational studies major graduating this year, took top prize for her idea for a device that would help children and adolescents with reduced vision increase their visual acuity. Schoen received $5,000 for her idea, which she calls the S.E.E, or Sensory Eyesight for Education, device.

Specifically, the S.E.E. device would help children born with Cortical Visual Impairment, a condition caused by damage to the brain, not the eye, according to Bill Seretta, director of the UNE Student Innovation Challenge. Several million people under the age of 22 suffer from this impairment. Schoen’s device, which she’s researched and has an initial design for, would help children create new pathways in the brain that will allow them to see more clearly. The device’s purpose is similar to how physical therapy can help a person who lost the use of an arm from a stroke create new pathways in the brain, replacing the damaged ones, to regain control of the muscles in the arm, Seretta said.

The second place prize, which comes with $3,000, went to Nathan Elmore and Matthew St. Jean, a pair of seniors studying medical biology, for METrax, an idea for a track-based rolling seat that allows emergency responders to be safely seated in an ambulance for the entire journey to a hospital.

And third place, and $2,000, went to Andrew Wuu, who’s working towards his doctoral degree in osteopathic medicine, for Healix Telemedicine, a system that would provide high quality healthcare to underserved individuals in rural areas of Maine.

The five judges were Sandra Stone, chair emeritus of the Maine Angels and principal of Sea Cove Solutions; David Barber, a UNE Trustee and former president of Barber Foods; Ron Porter, executive vice president of Linkage Consulting & Innovation Practice; Karin Gregory, founding partner of Furman, Gregory & Deptula; and Steven Boughton, a UNE graduate and president of Great Turning Advisors LLC.