An app to keep Realtors safer at open houses while at the same time efficiently organizing contact information won the top prize at the 2016 Robert K. O’Brien ’58 Next Big Idea contest  on Tuesday, May 3. The winning team of Alana Colombo, Julia Dufault, and Brett Tetreault was one of six teams competing for $5,000 in prize money.
The proposed app Realedex will allow agents to scan an open house participant’s license into an electronic database, rather than using a manual sign-in sheet. In addition to the convenience, having authenticated identification would also deter potential thieves or attackers who rely on anonymity to evade detection. The app would also feature and alert button to immediately contact police in a dangerous situation.
“We believe our app is a game-changing tool that will quickly and easily capture the market and prove to be a worthwhile investment,” the team wrote in their proposal.
The second place team of Meghan McMahon, Casey MacRae, and Aaron Hunter presented a proposal for uCare, a subscription box company that enables parents to send monthly care packages to their students at college. Courtney Bradley, Phong Diep, and Taylor Dupree, who proposed creating InternGrid to match companies with students searching for internships, won third prize. And an idea to connect students buying and selling textbooks, proposed by John Francis, Patrick McHugh, and Tiffany Marquez, won fourth place.
The contest is named for, and financially supported by, alumnus Robert K. O’Brien ’58, who has a long and distinguished career in business and helped launch 10 companies employing more than 300 people. He and his late wife, Barbara Hickey O’Brien ’57, also established six student scholarships at Worcester State, resulting in more than 100 full-tuition awards to date.
All six teams gave oral presentations and submitted written proposals to a panel of judges that included Robert K. O’Brien; Craig Bovaird ’77, founder of Built-Rite Tool & Die; Dulcie Madden, CEO and a co-founder of Rest Devices; Renee King ’12, owner and founder of Queen’s Cups bakery; and Kevin O’Brien, a limited partner in Comprehensive Solutions Group, LLP, and Targeted English Language Solutions.
To prepare for the contest, students took the course “Design Thinking and Innovation” taught by Assistant Professor Miriam Plavin-Masterman and Associate Professor Elizabeth Siler in the Business Administration and Economics Department .
About the Photo: From left, President Barry M. Maloney, Next Big Idea judge Kevin O’Brien, Alana Colombo ’17, contest founder and judge Robert K. O’Brien ’58, Julia Dufault ’17, Brett Tetreault ’17, and judge Craig Bovaird ’77