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Bradley entrepreneurs prepare to pitch their 'big ideas' to judges in competition

A photo from the 2022 Big Idea Trade Show.
Turner School for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
A photo from the 2022 Big Idea Trade Show.

Some Bradley students are thinking about graduation this month. For others, it's finals. But a few are focused on making the final pitch of their "Big Ideas" to a panel of judges - and potential investors.

The Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation's Big Idea Competition's final round is coming up next Monday.

Qing Qing Yang's idea for the competition started with finding a solution to a problem she experiences herself.

"I don't have a mind's eye, which means I can't imagine things in my mind. So when it comes to choosing outfits for daily occasions or other events, I have to put on clothes one by one and try the different combinations. And that just results in such a mess that I don't want to clean up."

Yang is leading the team developing the "Virtual Wardrobe" app. It allows users to take photos of their clothing, and create a virtual model of themselves.

"And then you're able to drag and drop your virtual clothes onto your virtual self and see a real life fit," Yang said.

Rahul Tyagi's idea comes from his wife's work at a Peoria hospital. She regularly sees the long recovery journeys of stroke survivors. Nearly 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke each year. Tyagi's "Rehab Ranger" is a combined app and wearable device he's creating to help stroke patients through their therapy process.

"So in the mobile application itself, we'll have a library of videos that solves our problem (of) how we are going to do it, the problem we were facing initially. And the another part is scanning of the body while you are doing the exercises. That solves our problem (of) whether we are doing it right or wrong," he said.

Essentially, Tyagi says the mobile app will both show a patient how to do their exercise, while also tracking their movement to make sure they're doing it correctly. Meanwhile, the wearable device tracks not only vital signs like heart rate and blood pressure, but also the patient's balance and gait. Those motor skills often cause difficulties for stroke patients.

Tyagi says it's also a good tool for physicians to gather data from the rehab sessions.

"Their doctor reviews that. They have the authority to mention that you can continue with the same session, or if they want to level it up. So they can do it from then and there itself, and the patient can see in their mobile application that their protocol has been updated. They'll get a notification," he said.

Kaylee Calito started work on "Gizmos" back when she was still in high school. It's centered all around making learning not only more accessible, but engaging. Calito draws on her own experience after transferring from a school in a lower-income neighborhood to one in a more affluent suburb.

"It was very drastically different from what I was used to in the past. And because of that, I was able to really learn and thrive and figure out my interests compared to how it was in the past years at my older schools," Calito said. "And I thought that, obviously, it's really unfair. But it doesn't have to be."

An online presence with different educational offerings like consumer science, engineering and art is part of the equation. But Calito says she also wants to present tangible products, too.

"So this year, we've been trying to develop an actual product that can go along with that website. And these products are like lessons in a box. But we don't want these lessons to be strict or limited," she said.

The top three teams in the Big Idea competition will land seed money to help them further develop their concepts. But even if she doesn't win, Qing Qing Yang says she wants to continue "Virtual Wardrobe" either way.

"If I managed to get funding, we'd be able to go forward as planned. But in the case that we don't, I would like to continue to keep it as a passion project," she said.

Kaylee Calito already has plans for the "Gizmos" project she's already invested years into.

"I want to build a community of learners or innovators. And I just I think it's going to be really exciting once we really get it out there. We're going to start in Peoria with schools like, maybe Whittier Elementary School. And I guess just where it goes is just how people respond to it," Calito said.

Rahul Tyagi says things are moving fast. This time last year, he was sitting in his office back in India.

"We started this idea somewhere in January. And between these three months, these three and a half months, we have made a lot of progress," he said.

Finalists will make their live presentations to judges at the Hayden-Clark Alumni Center's Peplow Pavilion at Bradley University from 4-6 p.m. on April 22.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.