PALM COAST, Fla. (November 17, 2022) Sometimes the solution is so simple, it’s right before your eyes. Literally.
Taking home one thousand dollar scholarships in addition to bragging rights on a first place win, Flagler Palm Coast High School seniors Roymara Louissaint and Cameron Driggers became the 2022 MedNexus Innovation Challenge champions with their ‘RedShield’ idea, on Wednesday evening.
Students across the region were presented with the challenge of how to combat sleep deprivation in young adults, and 25 teams responded.
Whittled down to the top five teams, the duo pitched their ‘RedShield’ concept – a screen protector for electronic devices that blocks blue light and emits red light during ‘bed time’ hours. The project’s simplicity, marketability and user-friendly concept earned high marks from the judges.
Knowing students were unlikely to give up their digital devices, the team took a different approach to solving the problem.
If not more sleep, then better quality sleep.
“Our approach to that is students are not going to give up their phones, that’s one of the biggest issues – you need to get off your phones at night to focus on getting sleep,” said Driggers. “We thought the more practical approach is to minimize the negative effects of how technology affects you. That’s the basis for our product and why we want to transform the graphic display to red light. The science shows it’s much better for you in terms of getting quality sleep.”
After accepting their prizes, the duo were bursting with excitement.
“It’s amazing – it’s really humbling and awesome experience,” said Driggers. “I can’t stress enough how exciting it is as young people to kind of get a seat at the table to kind of take an approach to these issues that disproportionately affect us.”
“Now that we won, I hope we get enough publicity to implement it because I think it really could change everyone’s sleep,” said Louissaint, returning to compete for a second year in the Innovation Challenge, and offering encouragement to other students.
“I would say, just give it a chance, because when me and Cameron were thinking of ideas, we thought of this, submitted it but thought other people were going to be so much better than us,” she said. “Then we actually got chosen and everything.”
Creating an Ecosystem with the Future in Mind
In a region brimming with small businesses and startups, cultivating the next generation of talent with competitions like the MedNexus Innovation Challenge is bringing new ideas to the forefront say organizers.
Among the judges, Dolores Key, Economic Development Manager for Flagler County listened attentively to each presentation.
“We are in good hands with today’s youth. They are bright, intelligent, innovative and wonderful,” said Key.
“Some of the kids were just phenomenal in their data and their analysis, understanding their target markets, being able to articulate what costs are needed to move a project forward, very impressive.”
Hosting the second annual innovation challenge, Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin, who also served as a judge, relied on decades of savvy business experience to challenge the students.
“These kids are committed and passionate, collaboratively working together to solve this problem,” he said. “I didn’t cut them any slack. I was finding out what their entrepreneurial strength is, so I was asking them difficult questions like how do you accessorize, how do you add on purchases, and they went right to it.”
A pillar of Alfin’s legacy as mayor will be his intentional inclusion of the next generation in the planning of the city’s future, and it’s opening up additional opportunities from lifestyle to workforce.
“This is our brand. We are a destination for problem solvers for the future,” said Alfin.
Dr. David Syzmanski, Executive Director and CEO of MedNexus was complimentary of the partnership with the City of Palm Coast.
“It’s extremely exciting to hold the second Innovation Challenge. These students are phenomenal. Each year they keep getting better and better and smarter and smarter,” he said.
“Congratulations to the school system. It’s really about the teachers, it’s really about the parents, it’s really about the support structure. I’m thrilled every year to see the talent we have and the talent we’re producing in tomorrow’s future leaders.”
“The Innovation Challenge and doing it here in Palm Coast makes absolute sense so we love the momentum we’re building, we love the support that we get from Palm Coast, and we love the city and everybody here,” said Syzmanski.
Tapped to emcee the event, serial entrepreneur and business mentor Melissa Chipps was impressed by the quality of submissions presented by students from Flagler and St. Johns counties.
“I’m so excited for all of these students,” she said. “I’m impressed by all of the detail they’re putting into it, not just throwing together something. They are literally, every day, working on their project. You can see that most of them are marketable, so they probably will go to market.”
From the Ground, Up
On hand to hear the pitches, Flagler County Commissioner and former school board member Andy Dance has seen the benefits of supporting youth and their ideas while working with Problem Solvers teams in the past.
“What’s interesting, I know Cameron from Future Problem Solvers (FPS), so I’m sure a lot of that training is helpful in putting together this presentation and project,” said Dance. “I loved their presentations and solutions. FPS has been a vehicle for a few students that I know of that have taken their thoughts and solutions to the market in real life and using what they learned in school to make products and successful businesses.”
“I think that’s the future and I think we can build a good business model around entrepreneurship here in the county.”
Flagler Schools Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt sees the teams’ placements in the challenge as a reflection of the quality education found in the district.
“Just a phenomenal evening. The partnerships with UNF, the MedNexus concept and the City of Palm Coast, to bring these opportunities to our students is just what makes our community so special,” she said.
“We always want to instill in our students Classroom to Career opportunities and we start in kindergarten, all the way up through their high school years. This is about entrepreneurship. If you have an idea, get with your friends, collaborate, teamwork, pull it all together, and we will support you in that initiative.”
WINNERS – 2022 MEDNEXUS INNOVATION CHALLENGE
First Place: RedShield (Roymara Louissaint, Cameron Driggers) – Flagler Palm Coast High School
Second Place: Nudg3 (Brandon Herrmann, Ryder McDowell, Savannah Miranda, Kimora Sanchez) – Flagler Palm Coast High School
Audience Choice: Sleeparium (Glynnis Gong, Brendan Wang, Greyson Peugh, Chloe Long, Nicholas Groth) – Flagler Palm Coast High School