School of Design students' big ideas rewarded in competition

Apr 28, 2017

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Photo by Mark Benjamin: From left to right — Chris Wagner, ZVRS vice president of customer experience and RIT/NTID alumnus and Foundation Board chair; Wade Kellard and Hans Kohls, RIT/NTID students and creators of BAGMAG; and Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean, at the Next Big Idea competition.


Industrial design student Hans Kohls was part of the team that took first place in the sixth annual Next Big Idea business competition held Wednesday (April 26) at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Kohls and mechanical engineering technology major Wade Kellard won the $5,000 grand prize in the “Shark Tank”-style competition that was judged by representatives from Florida-based video relay service ZVRS.

The contest featured four finalist teams of deaf and hard-of-hearing students from RIT’s NTID that developed helpful innovations.  

Kohls and Kellard (the two pictured in the middle) presented BAGMAG, which uses a robust magnet attached to a backpack to connect to another magnet fastened to the bottom of a skateboard. It’s a hands-free solution to transporting a skateboard while not in use, as it eliminates the process of strapping the board to a backpack or carrying it.

Three other College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at RIT students had a hand in the business ideas that were in the finals.

ASL Storyteller, an interactive app that teaches American Sign Language to children, both hearing and deaf, at a young age, placed second place and won $3,000. Graphic design student Julie Love and Logan Lugo (international business) presented for ASL Storyteller. A third team member, industrial design major Joo Yeon Chang (Christina), was not in attendance due to the competition solely being offered to deaf and hard-of-hearing students.  

The trio also took third place with the same idea at the RIT Business Model Competition in March.

Mohd Afifi Ishak, who is studying industrial design, was on the team that created VIGN, which finished fourth in the Next Big Idea. VIGN was developed to stream sign language videos that cover a range of topics — news, sports, culture, arts, family programs and more.

Both VIGN and ASL Storyteller are scheduled to be exhibited at Imagine RIT May 6.

VIGN’s display will be on the main floor of Gordon Field House while ASL Storyteller’s setup will be in the lobby of the Campus Center.