June 26, 2019 | 75° F

E-WEEK: Rutgers engineering organizations compete for funding in 'Shark Tank'

Photo by Samantha Casamir |

Students had the opportunity to win funding for their ideas during the first “Shark Tank” event, held as part of Engineers Week. Each group had five minutes to convince the judges that their projects were most worthy of the funding.

Creating ideas to better the world is easy, but developing them takes time and money. Last Wednesday, students had the opportunity to earn the funding they need to realize their goals.

On Feb. 24, Verizon hosted a "Shark Tank" in the Busch Student Center to allow engineering student organizations the chance to share their ideas with potential investors for their organization, as part of National Engineers Week.

The event was inspired by the popular entrepreneurial television show, CNBC's "Shark Tank," said Jennifer Arnau, a Verizon employee who manages the relationship between Rutgers and Verizon.

“Normally I’ll get a 20-page proposal and we want to do something different. Rather than reading the proposal, why don’t we have them present why we should support their organization,“ she said.

Organizations were given five minutes to present their ideas to the Verizon investors, or “sharks.” Students were given freedom with how they presented their ideas, as the sharks were looking for creativity in addition to the quality of the product, she said.

In addition to a presentation with the sharks, each group provided posters to highlight their organization and proposal. Presentations were held in a private room, while a live broadcast was made in the International Room alongside the posters.

The sharks also take into account how the presenters plan to use their funding, the activity of the organization, the quality of the presenters' posters and any incentive there might be to fund the organization, she said.

Nine groups were in attendance, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Society for Hispanic Engineers and Wolfpak. Three winners were selected, earning prizes of $250, $500 or $1,000, according to the event’s website.

“We’ve been recruiting at Verizon for several years, specifically at the School of Engineering, for a variety of the internship positions we have at the company,” Arnau said. “Most of the organizations are actually groups that we’ve worked with in the past, just being on campus recruiting.”

Applicants submitted basic information, such as a description of the organization and what their presentation will be. All presentations had to include a technology component, so a relatable component was taken into account as well, she said.

One of the organizations present was Wolfpak, a technology organization with an application centered around anonymous media sharing. They were the first group to present at the event, displaying their application’s abilities to the “sharks.”

The group was represented by Felix Young, Wolfpak’s treasurer and a School of Engineering senior, and School of Arts and Sciences junior Arthi Sundararajan, Wolfpak’s marketing chair and graphic designer.

“We want to change the way that information and media is shared in a community, and the way we do so is through our app,” Young said. “(The app) allows students to share pictures and videos anonymously with all the users around (them).”

The organization noticed the difficulty in promoting and sharing information about local events currently taking place, and made the app to as a solution, Sundararajan said.

“Suppose I’m at a really cool bake sale or a really lit party, I could post that picture or video on Wolfpak for everyone around me to see,” she said.

They also noticed the progression of the social media application, “Yik Yak” from being only text-based to eventually including pictures and videos. The anonymity gives students freedom of speech without judgment, Young said.

Being able to pinpoint a face to an opinion opens up students to potential harassment, Young said.

“We see that Rutgers is such a diverse place and there’s always so many protests and events going on, we wanted to empower our users, even just a freshman, to have a voice to reach the community of 30,000,” he said.

The organization went through a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted their group’s mission statement, goals, ideas, accomplishments and growth strategies, Sundararajan said.

Wolfpak hopes to use investments to grow the app and allow people around the world to voice their opinions, Young said. They want to enable freedom of speech without external pressure.

The ultimate goal of the event was to not only expose entrepreneurs in the School of Engineering to potential investors, but to give them experience for the corporate world. Students are attracted to the event due to Verizon’s brand name, with the prize as an added incentive, Arnau said.

“They know us as a technology innovation company. We have several types of careers that we offer to them as far as developing where their future is going to go in the STEM arena,” she said.

Verizon wants the organizations to view them as not “just a phone company,” but a brand that innovates in places such as the Verizon Innovation Centers, she said. Arranging the “Shark Tank” event allows them to show how Verizon is relatable to other areas of engineering.

They also aim to give students experience in performing business presentations, which she said are an important part and valuable skill for the corporate world.

Wolfpak ultimately placed second, with the Society for Hispanic Engineers earning third and the Minority Engineering Educational Task winning the grand prize.

“The sharks will be giving them feedback on how they present, and what they could’ve done better, for future presentations,” she said. “It’s a give and take, and in the light of (Engineers) Week, we really want to do something that really focused on the engineers.”


Harshel Patel is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in molecular biology and biochemistry. He is the digital editor of The Daily Targum. He can be found on Twitter @harshel_p.

Harshel Patel

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