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Vincent Castro and Eric Solie were the 2016 UAF Arctic Innovation Competition Main Division 1st place winning team for their idea, Attently. This idea is a cloud-based software service, which utilizes a video feed from a standard webcam or smart phone camera, calculating both the number of faces in view and the percentage of those faces which are actively paying attention in the direction of the camera.
The idea for Attently came out of Startup Weekend, an event held every year for aspiring entrepreneurs in Fairbanks. Attently’s creators were fascinated by facial recognition technology, which falls under the category of computer vision – or when computers understand how to see and pull information out of images. They were also drawn to public speaking, so trying to think of a technology that could combine those two ideas was key.
Taking a Chance
“At the time of the AIC competition, we had won the Startup Weekend, and I was very excited to have won that and getting a spot in AIC was the cherry on top,” said Eric. “As we got closer to the competition, I realized it was a much bigger deal, a much bigger competition with a lot of people, a lot of competitors, and a lot of money on the line. I started getting a more excited for it and a little bit nervous. Walking onto stage there with a big crowd looking at us and giving our pitch – which we had refined somewhat by the time we got there – was a very cool experience.”
Into the Future
The group’s plans for the next year is to finish the customer discovery phase, figure out who their first focus target market is, and then to develop their product. Their dream for the company is to develop something that is effectively and efficiently solving big problems for a lot of customers in various segments of the market. They want to develop a product that everyone is talking about, so that when people are giving a speech or speaking to an audience they will immediately ask: “What was the Attently score on that?”
Words of Wisdom
“The advice I have for anyone looking to compete is to go for it,” Eric said. “It can be a little bit intimidating with the application you have to fill out and the people you have to get up in front of to pitch your idea to, but it is also a hugely valuable experience.”
Hear more about what has happened over the past year from the expanded Attently team!
The UAF Arctic Innovation Competition (AIC) team recently caught up with Shalane Frost, AIC 2016 2nd Place winner and Fan Favorite award winner in the Main Division for her innovative idea, The NoseHat. It is a malleable nose and cheek cover for use during outdoor recreation in winter. It’s ergonomically designed to fit any face shape or nose size, while allowing unobstructed breathing during vigorous activities like Nordic skiing.
Shalane designed The NoseHat when she couldn’t find a product that met her own needs. While she was creating, prototyping, and testing her design primarily for use by skiers, she was surprised to find that there was a lot of interest in the idea from participants in other sports such as mushing and fat-biking. Now that she has been marketing and selling her finished product, The NoseHat has appeared in every major endurance race in Alaska and has customers from all over the world.
The most important thing Shalane learned about product development was not to launch with a pre-defined notion of who your customer is and how they are going to use your product. She also learned how much people liked customizations. She initially assumed she would be able to make a “one-size-fits-all” product, but she soon learned that she would need to make multiple sizes, in addition to allowing people to pick their favorite colors. The customer favorite seems to be the “cheetah” design!
Shalane’s best advice to future competitors is to have a prototype! “Even if it’s not what you intend to sell or it doesn’t work or it’s not quite right – have something the judges can feel in their hands. The idea makes good sense in your own head, but in order to have it solidify in others’ they need to be able to touch your product.”
Check out this video of our interview with Shalane and see the NoseHat in action!
My SOM Connection
When I was a youngster, my mother, Pat Cook, took our family to the UA Museum of the North. That was the first time I stepped foot on campus, and my connection to UAF has strengthened ever since. Our accounting firm, Cook & Haugeberg, LLC, actively recruits students and all firms in the Interior would agree that there are never enough accountants in the state of Alaska.
I believe strongly in the mission of SOM and have great faith in the students and the education they receive. As Chair of the Business Advisory Council, I get to learn firsthand what is happening at the school. I appreciate that Dean Herrmann really listens to the council members. He explains the issues the school is facing and the opportunities that are available. We, in turn, let the dean know our ideas to improve the school and what we are looking for in business graduates.
SOM has transformed over the decades. As it continues to increase in size, I am impressed by how the school keeps up with industry demands; for example, SOM is now offering degrees in homeland security and emergency management. The array of majors, and thus the diversity of students, make for a stronger and more interesting school. With this increase in size and programs comes a more diverse student body in age, ethnicity and family makeup.
As a lifelong Alaskan, I believe that most of us want to do what we can to remain living and thriving in this state. SOM has a sterling reputation and I ask you to consider a new, renewed or additional gift to the school. Cook & Haugeberg sustains an annual accounting scholarship and supports the UAF Business Leader of the Year. My wife, Sharon, and I also choose to give personally to SOM. No matter the size of your gift, you can help SOM students obtain an ideal educational experience inside and outside the classroom. Your gift is also a shout out to our legislature that we are in this predicament together and we are not idly standing by for a handout. Your gift signifies the importance you – and I – place on SOM and the future leaders of our state.
Photo by Sarah Villilon.
When you think of undergraduate research you tend to think of geoscience, chemistry or biology. At UAF, the resource for undergraduate students to engage in research is URSA (Undergraduate Research & Scholarly Activity). School of Management student Esul “Pomi” Chafin recently embarked on a research project all without a microscope, lasers or counting any animals.
Pomi is a business administration major who graduated in May 2017. She learned about the URSA opportunity through Professor Josh Lupinek’s Entertainment & Sports Event Management course. “I competed against other students for the opportunity,” Pomi said. “But due to my data analysis and research experience from working at UA Statewide, I was chosen for the project.”
Pomi’s summer 2016 research project applied the 80/20 rule to the National Hockey League (NHL) to determine whether the top 20% of players, in terms of salaries, actually produced the highest performance levels – equal to 80% of the scoring in games. Overall, she found that the top players only score about 50% of the goals. She also concluded that hockey is more of a team sport and goals are spread out among all the players.
Taking her project to the next level, Pomi requested, and received, additional funding from URSA to present her completed project, “The 80/20 Experience: An analysis of NHL salaries and why ice hockey is the ultimate team game,” at the 2017 Global Sport Business Association (GSBA) conference in Cozumel, Mexico. “I did the research to get more data analysis experience but I got so much more,” Pomi said. “I gained professional development, I learned about deadlines, which is a big part of data analysis, and I improved my public speaking skills.”
Pomi also presented her research at the URSA Research Day in April 2017 (which is required for all students who receive URSA funding) and won the School of Management Dean’s Choice award of $500 for her poster. “This experience took me out of my comfort zone. It really improved my speaking and communication skills, and helped me develop professionally,” Pomi said. “I would tell current SOM students to try research because it’s not just for science students. Research is a very important part of business and it’s a great addition to your resume.”
Pomi plans to publish her work through the GSBA journal in fall 2017. She will also be entering the School of Management MBA program in the fall.
Dr. Cameron Carlson is the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. He earned a BS in biology from Monmouth University in 1986 and an MA in international relations from Webster University in 1995. He earned his Ph.D. in security and disaster management from UAF in 2017.
How did you first get involved with SOM?
My first encounter with Mark Herrmann was when we both went to the Academic Leadership Institute in 2004. At that point, I led the ROTC program and he asked me to teach as an adjunct. I taught sports leadership for several years and then I heard SOM was considering a bachelor’s of emergency management. By then I had retired from the military as a Lieutenant Colonel and was working as an emergency manager at UA Statewide. Mark asked me to launch the program, expand it and enroll more students.
What’s the best thing to happen since you started working at SOM?
I don’t know if there has been one single thing. It sounds like such a cliché but I really do enjoy my job. I like getting up in the morning and coming in. I like teaching and the interaction with the students. I enjoyed the Ph.D. process. The other faculty members really helped me a lot to narrow my focus and realize what my field is all about. Also, I enjoyed getting into the research world and working on some of the contracts that we have had with Northcom, the US Nothern Command, and the US Alaska Command. Working with them on Arctic Domain Security Orientation, what it’s going to look like in the arctic and why it’s important. As things heat up with North Korea, people are starting to understand that Alaska is more strategically significant than we originally thought.
How do you define good teaching?
Good teaching is the ability to engage students. I make sure they are being heard and that their questions are resolved. It is our duty to make sure something of value is provided to them since their next step is to secure a job.
How do you spend your summers in Alaska?
Working on articulation agreements with college programs out of state. Outside of work, I enjoy the weather by riding my mountain bike and spending time with my wife on our deck tasting wines. We are planning our next trip to Napa Valley to visit our family.
What advice do you have for current students?
Accept some risk, push the envelope a bit and learn something that makes you slightly uncomfortable. We’re wired to seek out comfort, which is why it’s hard to let go. If you challenge yourself, it will actually help you perform at your peak.
What would you like to tell us about your family?
Every member of our family has worked for UAF at one point or another. My wife currently works at UA Statewide, but she got her start in the UAF Business Office while I was still on active duty. Our youngest daughter Shelby recently left her position with UAF financial systems, and took a job out of state. Our youngest daughter Shelby and I walked through 2017 Commencement together, she for her MBA and me for my Ph.D. Our daughter Courtney received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from SOM. Our first-born daughter Dani also got her undergraduate degree from UAF. Fun fact? Dani was the Nanook bear mascot at one point.
- Next TV binge watch in queue? Wonder Woman
- What is one thing you think everyone should own no matter the cost? A good mountain bike
- Latest song gone earworm? Run by the Foo Fighters
- In a next life, what would your career be? The exact same thing
- If you were granted one wish to change the world what would it be? To do away with cancer
Marisa is the president and CEO of the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. She earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2001 with a concentration in marketing.
Why did you choose to attend UAF?
It was important for me to stay in Fairbanks and remain close to my family. I felt fortunate that UAF had a degree that fit with my long-term goals. The choice was easy and it felt right at the time, and I can say that over 15 years later, I still think it was the right choice.
Share with us an outstanding teacher or class.
I loved Claudia Clark! She demonstrated the right balance between being firm and flexible. She held students accountable and reminded us we live in an unforgiving world, but she was also fun to be around and kept us laughing while learning.
What is a favorite SOM memory?
Attending commencement in a sea of black caps and gowns, and having my then 3-year-old son spot me in the crowd and yell “MAMA!” from the mezzanine during the ceremony.
How did SOM prepare you for your professional career?
SOM classes covered the right breadth of issues to prepare me for my career. Everything from human resources and business law to customer service and marketing topics came in handy almost immediately and have remained relevant in the 15+ years since I graduated. The program provided a great foundation for me professionally.
What does being a UAF alumna mean to you?
Being a UAF grad adds to my sense of community. I love Fairbanks and am always proud to share that I’m a UAF graduate. I find pride by supporting our teams, reading about innovations and ideas generated by students, faculty, and graduates, and seeing our community rally to support this institution that has such an important role in our community.
What keeps you enthusiastic about your career?
Change. Change can be incredibly difficult until you accept that all great things happen as a result of change. Even during times when I had the same role in an organization for several years, I found fulfillment in trying new and creative ideas. Change keeps things exciting and fresh.
What’s the number one skill or practice that has contributed to your success?
I think my ability to foster a team environment has been one of the biggest factors that helps me feel successful. I know results are better when the right team of people are working on a common and well vetted goal, and it feels good to be able to celebrate wins with everyone that helped achieve a successful outcome.
What advice do you have for current students?
Find people in your community who you admire and make them your mentors. You don’t have to ask them or literally assign them that role. Just start asking questions and for advice, observe how they communicate, who they surround themselves with, what they do in their spare time, etc. They will be your mentors as soon as you decide they are.
- Favorite breakfast food? Peanut butter protein shake or waffles
- Dream vacation destination? Beach. Book. Beverage.
- Book you are currently reading? The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- Last music digital download or streaming music channel? Sam Smith
- When was the last time you sang out loud? Odds are I’m singing out loud right now