“I’m originally from a small country in Africa called Ghana. We have a saying. It’s called ‘Sankofa’ and it means to go back in your past and pull that experience with you or bring it forward,” said Ebenezer Dadson ’21, who brought home a scholarship worth $15,000 for first prize in the social venture track of the 2020 Fowler Business Concept Challenge. Dadson, who is pursuing his master’s degree in electrical engineering, won the award for Auris AI, innovative stethoscopes with the potential to save millions of lives.

For Dadson, his concept is more than an academic exercise in problem-solving. He has firsthand experience of what can happen when access to health care is inadequate, “When I was young, my grandfather passed away because of lack of access to health care in Ghana, so I hope to be able to move forward with this project so I can increase access here and abroad … I really appreciate this, Ron and Alexis Fowler. Thank you to the St. Thomas staff. This is really amazing.”

Alexis and Ron Fowler ’66

Sankofa was a fitting theme for the Fowler Business Concept Challenge, which concluded in an online award ceremony last Friday. Ron Fowler, entrepreneur and owner of the San Diego Padres, graduated from the University of St. Thomas in 1966 and has been paying it forward ever since. Over the past 12 years, Fowler has contributed $616,000 toward scholarships for aspiring entrepreneurs. This year, Fowler contributed a record $87,000 in scholarships which were awarded to a record 32 teams. The competition produced 88 new concepts from a total of 112 students representing 20 different majors.

University of St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan provided the ceremony’s keynote address. “Entrepreneurship has been a core value in Ron Fowler’s life. He has a true gift to see innovation and define potential in creative problem-solving, and more importantly, he generously shares this gift by encouraging and supporting students to create new ideas and spark innovation, and ultimately solve those problems that matter to them and our world. Ron is the ultimate difference-maker and he inspires all of us to do better … Thank you, Ron, for creating this springboard that allows us to cultivate and reward the spirit of entrepreneurship in our students, and ultimately, in our world.”

Laura Dunham, associate dean of the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, emceed the event which included eight finalists from the nonprofit social venture track and the for-profit business track. “The Fowler Business Concept Challenge is a signature event here at St. Thomas, and a critically important vehicle for unlocking the entrepreneurial potential of all students across our university,” Dunham said.

Asher Anderson ’23 won first prize in the business track for Epiblock, a medical device that will aid those suffering from chronic nose bleeds. “My product pressurizes blood arteries in the nasal cavity, makes your nose bleed stop very quickly, and is sustainable by reducing the amount of tissues used … I’m kind of breathless,” said Anderson, who had an inspiring message for his fellow competitors. “During the Fowler competition, I couldn’t believe all of the amazing ideas. I hope everyone in the Fowler competition will keep sharing their idea no matter their placement in this competition.”

2020 Fowler Business Concept Challenge winners:

Business Concept Track

  • First place ($15,000): Epiblock, Asher Anderson. Silicone-based product used to reduce the amount of blood and time it takes for nosebleeds to stop.
  • Second place ($7,500): SipliSafe, Connor Glinski and Andrew Morse. Continuously monitoring “smart” straw with the ability to detect the full spectrum of date-rape drugs.
  • Third place ($5,000): Nanocide, Jack Queenan and Broderick Runez. Novel phone screen using antimicrobial peptides to kill bacteria.
  • Fourth place ($2,500): VitiSchedule, Rachel Farah. Visual planning app to assist children who have autism spectrum disorder and bring structure to their lives.

Social Venture Track

  • First place ($15,000): Auris AI, Ebenezer Dadson. AI-assisted stethoscopes that capture, analyze and interpret acoustic signals and indicates results in real time.
  • Second place ($7,500): Got It Foods, Jenny Behrens. Ships almost expired bundles of food to food deserts in the metro area at an affordable price.
  • Third place ($5,000): The Green Mountain Project, Cory Kaisersatt and Ben Hogan. Creates snow pants from repurposed billboard vinyl to assist people who are battling homelessness.
  • Fourth place ($2,500): SparkConnect, Nicki Hangsleben. A mentorship program for at-risk LGBTQ+ youth.
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