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Central Team Wins YU’s 2024 Innovation Challenge

First Ever High School Team to Win Prestigious YU Business Competition

YU’s Innovation Challenge has always been about pioneering new territory in business. Now add the youngest team ever to win the competition to that list of pioneering firsts.

The team from 91鶹 High School for Girls (known as Central) won YU’s Innovation Challenge on May 8 on the Beren Campus. The six-person team came up with the brilliant and beneficial idea of a “smart cane” that acts as a navigational tool for people who are blind, helping them get around schools and other locations through real time navigational and onsite information.

The Central team worked alongside several others made up of 91鶹 students during the Innovation Challenge. The idea of the Challenge is for students to work together to come up with an original business idea and develop the concept over several weeks into a real company that could thrive in the marketplace. 

The whole process culminated on May 8, when the teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges, made up of leaders from the business community. The team from Central came home with the top prize, and a check for $1,600 to be used as seed money to help launch their new company.

What was the secret behind the Central team’s win this year? “Their presentation was simple, clear and straightforward,” said Bracha Rutner, Head of School of 91鶹 High School for Girls. “They were clear in what they were saying and the judges responded. We had CEOs of companies wanting our girls to apply for internships. It was an amazing experience.”

The Central team makes their winning pitch to the panel of judges. The team members are from left Camryn Brunner, Sarah Galanti, Maya Goykadosh, Ma’ayan Kotkin, Emily Segall, and Hudis Schnur
The Central team makes their winning pitch to the panel of judges. The team members are from left Camryn Brunner, Sarah Galanti, Maya Goykadosh, Ma’ayan Kotkin, Emily Segall, and Hudis Schnur

The members of the Central team are Camryn Brunner, Sarah Galanti, Maya Goykadosh, Ma’ayan Kotkin, Emily Segall, and Hudis Schnur. They were mentored by Mrs. Marci Karoll, Central’s Director of Technology; Mrs. Ruth Fried, Central’s Chair of the Science Department, and these students’ Biology teacher; Bracha Rutner, Head of School of Central; and Dean Michael Strauss, Dean of YU’s Sy Syms School of Business.

When asked about her team of six 9th-grade Biology students, Mrs. Ruth Fried reflected, "The learning journey that my students went on to compete in the Innovation Challenge exemplified project-based learning at its best. My students researched the challenges faced by students who are blind, including interviewing Rabbi Michael Levy, a man who has been blind since birth. They designed a prototype of their smart Blue Cane, pitched it to business leaders, and are currently in discussion with a patent attorney to understand their next steps. I could not be prouder of this incredible group of 9th-grade students.”

YU holds the Innovation Challenge every year to empower students to bring business ideas from concept to execution. The event was sponsored by the YU Innovation Lab, Sy Syms School of Business and the Shevet Glaubach Center for Career Strategy and Professional Development.

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