Business Plan Challenge

2014 high school winners made a game of learning language skills

THE WINNERS: Miami Edison Senior High teacher Yolette Mezadieu, center, is photographed with her team of students: Franceline Pierre-Louis, Evanson Telisme, Gerlannda Asse and Frantz Senat. They who won the Business Plan Challenge high school track for their business plan, "Word Avenger."
THE WINNERS: Miami Edison Senior High teacher Yolette Mezadieu, center, is photographed with her team of students: Franceline Pierre-Louis, Evanson Telisme, Gerlannda Asse and Frantz Senat. They who won the Business Plan Challenge high school track for their business plan, "Word Avenger." MIAMI HERALD STAFF

1st Place: Word Avenger

A group of Haitian-born Miami Edison Senior High students won the Business Plan Challenge’s High School Track for a plan to improve language and literacy skills through a fun mobile app game.

With Word Avenger, players guide a spaceship through a meteor shower of words. When a definition is displayed, the player has 30 seconds to destroy the matching word. Words become more difficult with each level. The business plan was developed by Franceline Pierre-Louis, Evanson Telisme, Gerlannda Asse and Frantz Senat.

Telisme, who is now at the University of Kentucky, noted last year that Word Avenger used their strengths in math, science and business to solve real-world problems in reading writing and vocabulary. Pierre-Louis, who moved here from Haiti in 2009 and learned most of her English from SpongeBob SquarePants, said she wished there had been a game like Word Avenger available when she was younger.

Senat, now a senior, said he developed a free demo version of the game and released it on the Google Chrome store. He is still working on the mobile version, which they hope to sell for 99 cents. He is currently a competitor in the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s World Series of Innovation contest. Senat plans to attend college and major in computer science.

Asse, who had the original idea for the plan based on her own tough experience learning English, said she has learned a great deal about making an app while working on the plan — and even more about business. She’s won a number of honors at her school, plans to attend college and wants to be a radiologist.

Senat’s advice to this year’s Challenge contenders: “Be confident in your business because at the end of the day it’s about meeting a need in your society. Winning or not, you are contributing to your own improvement and the improvement of your society.” Adds Asse: “Buckle down, be centered, be patient, and never abandon what you are chipping away at.”

2nd Place: MoodPoint

Catherine Lindsay was troubled that fellow teens who suffered from depression or anxieties may not get help because of the stigma attached to mental illness. Instead, they take to social media sites to share their turmoils anonymously. So she came up with an idea: an app that would provide a preliminary diagnosis and resources for relief in the privacy of one’s smartphone.

Lindsay, now a senior at Ransom Everglades School in Miami-Dade, won second place in the Business Plan Challenge.

Under her plan, users would download a $2.99 app and fill out a series of psychological tests that would take only 15 minutes to compete, she said. “It’s easier to be honest to an app than to a person,” she said. Users would be encouraged to log sleep patterns, geotag activities and document what they eat. While stressing that MoodPoint would not be a replacement for seeking medical attention, she said MoodPoint could connect people with local psychiatrists and specialists. Doctors could use the information the patient logs into the app.

Lindsay plans to attend college at Amherst College, where she will major in political science and English literature.

Her advice to this year’s contestants: “Tell the panel not only why people need your product, but also what sets your product apart from others in your field.”

3rd Place: Xue Wen

Three seniors at Ransom Everglades believed they came up with a better way to teach Chinese.

Under the 3rd place winning plan, called Xue Wen, the Chinese word for knowledge, a mobile app could be developed that would allow users to look up a Chinese character, its English translation and listen to its pronunciation by simply taking a picture. The team said the app’s photo recognition feature would give it a clear competitive advantage.

The winning plan was submitted by Dante Bolzan, Adam Moreno-Mendelson and Ethan Arteaga, who were classmates in an advanced placement macroeconomics/microeconomics class. The idea sprang from Bolzan’s own experience trying to learn Chinese.

The three are now attending college: Bolzan is at Yale in Connecticut, Moreno-Mendelson is at Carleton College in Minnesota and Arteaga is at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

This report was supplemented with information from journalist Madison Fantozzi.

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