Downpatrick SERC engineering students have won the college’s 2018 Enterprise Challenge.
On Friday 21 September, a team of young engineering entrepreneurs from South Eastern Regional College’s Downpatrick campus won the final of the Colleges 2018 Enterprise Challenge.
Team ‘Slurry Safe’ faced stiff competition from their peers but were ultimately crowned champions with their innovative solution to minimise the risks to farm workers posed by poisonous slurry fumes.
Team members included Ryan Clendenning, Matthew Connor, Conal Murray and Isaac Kelly who study the Level 2 Apprenticeship in Engineering.
Over 4,000 students from across SERC took part in the competition which was designed to provide them with valuable employability skills. Students were tasked with competing in teams to create a real-world business concept, tailored towards each vocational area, which they then presented to a panel of guest judges.
From the initial 500 teams that took part, 6 teams made it through to the final, having previously impressed the judges at the Campus heats which took place earlier in the month.
Each team had to pitch their idea in a Dragons’ Den-style event to a prestigious panel of judges, to be crowned champions. Three guest judges were invited to judge the students on each of their ideas including: Belinda O’Neill, Commercial Branch Manager for Bank of Irelands Lisburn branch and former SERC students and local entrepreneurs’ Andy and Cat Hill who founded Hill’s Mixtape Coffee. To add to the pressure, the pitches were streamed live via the SERC Media Centre.
After hearing each of the pitches, the judges deliberated to decide on the overall winner.
In the Social Enterprise category, team ‘Someone Say Brownies?’ took home first prize for their brownies but with a twist business idea. Team ‘The Courtyard’ picked up second place for their idea of student designed College ‘spaces’ to enhance student wellbeing and networking. Each team was presented with their prizes by guest judge Cat Hill.
In the Most Innovative category, ‘Slurry Safe’ took home first prize with ‘Team Gene Genies’ picking up second place for their multi-disciplinary sculpture project involving art, science, photography and engineering students. Each team was presented with their prizes by guest judge Belinda O’Neill.
In the ‘Most Entrepreneurial’ category, Team ‘SERC PRO’ took home first prize for their app designed to enable staff to complete gym inductions anywhere and anytime with ‘Team Revival Watch’ picking up second place for their personal jewellery embedded with sensors to help relatives keep track of loved ones suffering from dementia. Each team was presented with their prizes by guest judge Andy Hill.
Finally, team ‘Slurry Safe’ were crowned overall winners and won £200 of Amazon vouchers and 12 months of business mentoring to help get their project up and running from SERC Director of Curriculum and Information Services Michael Malone.
Speaking about his experience team member Isaac Kelly said: “With all of us coming from a farming background we can relate to the real need for this product that can potentially save lives. None of us knew each other before the competition and it has been a great experience and we never thought we would make it to the finals.”
SERC Head of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Kieran McKenna said: “It was a very close-run competition with much deliberation between the judges. Students have come up with creative projects while some have looked at previous ideas and how they can enhance it and make it better.
“The students produced several innovative ideas, but I believe that ‘Team Slurry Safe’ were the rightful winners of the Enterprise Challenge. Their choice of product shows real passion for their work and outlines the dangers of farm life and has real commercial viability. They worked well in a team and their presentation was clear and concise. I look forward to them developing their business idea and making it a commercial reality.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to our guest judges for giving up their time to attend and serve as impartial judges for the finals”.
SERC Director of Curriculum and Information Services Michael Malone congratulated the students and said: “At SERC we are committed to providing every student with the opportunity to ‘get the edge’ and improve their employability skills and with an increasingly challenging job market this has never been more crucial. We have been running the enterprise fortnight for several years and every year the standards from the students gets higher.
“Project Based Learning was created with the aim of helping create an exciting and enjoyable way of learning about the College, while also helping students make new friends in a fun and informal manner. Every project the students put forward has given them the opportunity to learn, to think outside the box, to figure out problems and challenges, to invent and reinvent and the importance of how hard work pays off.”