Students Present Innovative Ideas to Combat Problems Created by COVID-19

Wednesday, May 20, 2020


The COVID -19 crisis has disrupted the normal way of life and affected so many people in many ways. Like universities around the world, faculty and students at South Carolina State University have had to quickly transition to a remote learning environment. This transition has presented challenges for many students; however, some have not only adapted to the new learning platform, but have continued to engage in active learning.


The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub in the College of Business recently held a virtual Innovative Idea Competition. The competition was originally scheduled for March during Business Week, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, the competition changed to a virtual format that challenged students to use their creativity to create technology, a service or a product idea to solve a problem created by COVID-19.


In Round 1, students submitted their ideas, which were reviewed by a panel of judges. The top four students were invited to make a virtual presentation to judges on April 24.


The first-place winner is Mohamed Selim Ben Ali, a freshman accounting major. Ali’s idea is a “COVID-19 Screening Tunnel” to be placed at the front entrance of big-box retail stores, grocery stores and malls. The tunnel would consist of two phases. At the entrance of the tunnel, customers would log into the company’s kiosk to enter some basic information that could potentially determine if they have been exposed to the virus. Customers would then move to the first part of the tunnel to be scanned by a thermal camera to detect body temperature. Those with a normal body temperature would move to the ‘disinfecting cabinet’ to be sprayed with a disinfecting mist. Customers with a temperature above normal would be requested to leave and see a health professional.


Ali believes his idea would benefit customers as well as business owners.


“Customers would be able to shop with confidence, and business owners would be able to continue operating their businesses. In addition, those with body temperatures above normal would know they need to seek professional advice to determine if they have the virus,” Ali said.


The second-place winner of the competition is Dyrell Kinlock, a senior accounting major. Kinlock’s idea is a product called “Mr./Mrs. Helping Hand” to help people, particularly children, deal with the emotional and mental stress caused by COVID-19. The product is a customized stuffed animal infused with a lavender scent that includes an app to allow owners to connect to a 24/7 hotline response team. The app would also have an instant comfort mode that gives a hug and includes programmed responses to certain statements such as, “I’m not feeling well today.” The infused lavender gives a comforting scent to relax the owner.


“Staying at home and constantly seeing news reports of the devastating effects of COVID-19 has added stress on people,” Kinlock said. “I want to help out by being a problem solver rather than just a problem thinker.”


He believes his idea will help children and others deal with depression caused by COVID-19 and other situations.


The third-place winner is a tie between Ryonna Thompson, a senior political science (pre-law) major and Aaron Golson, a Master of Business Administration in agribusiness student.


Thompson’s idea is a “Stay at Home Kit.” The kit includes a 30-day supply of essential items to survive the COVID-19 crisis while staying at home, including personal protective equipment (masks and gloves); sanitation items (bleach, pine-sol, sanitizer, wipes, rags); and food (a Walmart card for online grocery delivery).


“This idea is beneficial to customers because it provides easy access to all the essential items needed to survive this pandemic,” Thompson said.


Golson’s idea is a “Food Hub,” which would be a regenerative farm management company that includes: custom cattle grazing, (grass-fed and grass-finished beef) an organic meat processing facility and food delivery services. The company would provide customers with fresh meat and other locally grown food products in Orangeburg and surrounding counties.


“I believe a company such as this would be beneficial because of the closing of many meat processing companies and the fact that Orangeburg is considered to be a food desert, which creates a need for nutritious and affordable food in the midst of COVID- 19,” Golson said.


The winners were awarded the following by the College of Business’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub:


Ali: $300
Kinlock: $200
Thompson: $100
Golson: $100


Participation in the competition during these difficult times Illustrates the ingenuity and ability of SC State students to rise above their adversities.


“The competition helped me develop and experience what I’m really capable of,” Ali said.


He hopes to participate in the next competition.


Since 2016, the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub has been instrumental in helping college students to become innovative thinkers, by exploring and engaging in entrepreneurial activities. In addition to sponsoring innovative ideas and startup competitions, the Hub conducts venturethons, seminars, business expositions, assistance in developing business plans and access to professional services, such as legal and accounting advice. The Hub will extend its program to provide entrepreneurial training to the general community and a micro-farming project to high school students in the fall of 2020.


For more information about programs and activities within the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Hub, contact Zachary Thomas at (803) 536-7096 or zthomas1@scsu.edu.