Undergrads win big for innovative EcoLight product in entrepreneurship competitions


A team of undergrads have taken home $15,000 in prizes at recent entrepreneurship competitions for a set of energy-saving window blinds that maximize the amount of natural light in a room.

The team’s winning product, the Luminex EcoLight System, was developed entirely in the course New Venture Design offered jointly by UBC’s Sauder School of Business and Faculty of Applied Science. The class brings together commerce and engineering students to invent products, file patents, develop working prototypes and seek funding for new start-ups.

“I still remember the excitement when we formed our team in class,” said Mustafa Abousaleh, who credits the course for his group’s success. “NVD gave us strategies for idea generation and research that got us up and running on creating our product. We were also exposed to guest speakers whose real world insights were integral to every step along the way in our development.”

BComs James Clift, Paul McLaughlin and Melissa Jang, and engineering students Levi Stoddard, Thomas Zhou and Mustafa Abousaleh, won the $10,000 first prize at the Evansville New Venture Creation Competitionheld at the University of Evansville in Indiana on March 25. They also snagged $5,000 worth of prizes at the Tony Brower Innovation Expositionat Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops on March 26.

Their Luminex EcoLight System is a daytime lighting system that consists of set of reflective blinds that maximize the amount of sunlight in a room by moving automatically throughout the day, tracking the sun and redirecting its light onto the ceiling. The room is then equipped with an ambient light sensor, which limits the use of artificial lighting accordingly in order to save energy.

Aimed at architects and decorators who would potentially incorporate the window coverings into large-scale building projects, the blinds offer the potential for enormous savings of energy.

"The New Venture Design course acts as the catalyst that brings together outstanding business and engineering students," said Sauder professor Darren Dahl, one of the instructors who teaches the class. "By merging their innovative thinking and different talents, the course provides a distinctive learning experience where students can truly create something new and valuable."

Since its launch in 2003, Sauder’s New Venture Design has spawned numerous teams that have gone on to win business innovation competitions at home and around the world, including a successful pitch on CBC Television’s Dragon’s Den.

Alumni from the class in recent year have founded a series of successful businesses startups, including this year’s recipients of Sauder’s Dobson Foundation Grants, an award given annually to New Venture Design grads who have launched new companies.

Grant winners this year have created an exciting range products, including an innovative new water desalination system, wireless medical sensors that can provide real-time information to doctors, a surgical tape that can be applied to patients to improve accuracy in incisions, a social media integrated photo booth, and an online booking system for dental clinics.