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Newport junior's piezoelectric floorboard wins first place, $3,600 at Young Entrepreneurs Academy event
On May 1, Newport High School junior Amrita Ram walked into the Wilburton Instructional Service Center with more than a dozen of her colleagues in the Bellevue chapter of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. Like everyone else, she was armed with a presentation, a business refined over the course of the past school year and a request for a specific dollar amount from an investment fund.
Each presenter walked out of the Rainier Room a little richer — and perhaps a little more wary under the hard questioning from a judging panel of local executives — but Ram walked out $3,600 richer.
Ram, 16, was awarded — "Without hesitation," judge Tanya Fraioli said — first place for Fresh Steps, a company working on the development of flooring that can generate supplemental electricity for high traffic buildings. She received nearly four times her requested capital infusion of $935, which she will use for further development of her signature EcoBoard, she said.
The board exploits piezoelectricity, a phenomenon for which compression of certain types of materials creates electric discharge.
"I had shoes that lit up whenever I stepped on the floor and became interested with the technology that enabled it to do so," she said. "After that, my father and I began to learn about the technology together. Since then I've always been interested in the technology and have continued to experiment with it."
Ram has built a basic prototype, but she continues to work on obstacles such as effective storage of the energy generated and finding reliably durable and cheap tile materials.
Runners up in the pitch competition were Brute Jute, a company dealing in decorative reusable bags made of bamboo and jute, and Dot Cosmetics, a company creating a combined lip balm and exfoliant.
The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a yearlong class walking students from 6th to 12th grade through the development of a business from plan to launch. It was founded at the University of Rochester and operates nationally through local chapters run by chambers of commerce. The Bellevue Academy is operated by the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce. The chapter accepted its first applicants in fall 2013.