Grand prize Innovation Challenge winner receives $10K in funding

February 13, 2012

9 winners receive seed funding to propel social ventures

Nine student-led teams were selected Feb. 13 to receive grants of up to $10,000 from the ASU Innovation Challenge, an entrepreneurship program designed to give undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to make a difference through social innovation. These grants will be used as seed money to propel their ideas into ventures aimed at solving global problems. Download Full Image

Student innovators stood to the applause and cheers of their peers and mentors as the nine winning teams were announced. The grand prize winner was Applyforall – a for-profit website that brings those looking for a new credit card together with the credit card issuers. offers a new and innovative method to a service currently unavailable to consumers.

The Applyforall team is comprised of team leader Vern Wolfley, a student in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Dennis Wolfley, a graduate of the W. P. Carey School of Business; Ammon Wolfley, a graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and team mentor Cindy Smith, of Zions Bancorporation. 

The team received a fully funded grant of $10,000, generously provided by Perkins Coie Law Firm – the sponsor of this year's grand prize. 

“We couldn't be more excited about being chosen as the grand prize winners of the ASU Innovation Challenge,” said Vern Wolfley, whose emotional response to the announcement was evident as he stood with his family to accept the award on stage. “As a family-based team, we have been working on this for quite some time and feel that we can finally move this further as a result of our award.”

This year 188 teams consisting of more than 500 ASU students from all disciplines applied to the Innovation Challenge, up 153 from last year. The 188 applicants were narrowed down to 30 finalists. Those 30 finalists participated in a pitch event over the weekend, where each team gave a five-minute presentation in front of a judging panel that would select nine winners.

Each winning team was awarded grants, but only Applyforall received the $10,000 grand prize from Perkins Coie.

“We were looking for an opportunity to invest in the innovators of tomorrow, and ASU just happened to be doing exactly what we wanted to support,” said Howard Cabot, a partner at Perkins Coie, who announced the winners in the Pima Ballroom of the Memorial Union, on the Tempe campus.

Another big winner was Peter Seymour from Seymour Enterprises. A returning Innovation Challenge winner, Seymour won a $5,000 grant to continue his work designing a low-cost respiratory monitor designed for infants with an elevated risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This technology, marketed to parents and hospitals, offers low-cost respiratory and vital sign monitoring equipment.

“The Innovation Challenge truly served as the launching point for Seymour Enterprises last year,” Seymour said. “I had an exciting new idea about a medical sensor but no real concept of how to go about starting a business or turning that idea into reality. After 12 months of truly innovative work, I can confidently say that all of our progress stems from this first validation. In the end, that is what the Innovation Challenge is really about.”

Other winning teams included a portable water purification system for developing countries, a personal development program for 15- to 16-year-old orphans in foster care, an interactive science community program, a modernized mechanical wheelchair, and the conversion of steel shipping containers into low-cost, modular and mobile medical clinics.

To view the list of winners, and to learn more about their social ventures, visit

This year's competition marks the third consecutive Innovation Challenge, which was made possible by a grant from the Perkins Coie and the Ewing Marion Kaufmann Foundation in Kansas City. Additional support came from James Culver, John Dorsey, Jonathan Pinkus and David Wetta. Culver, who served as a returning Innovation Challenge Final Round Judge, described the competition as an outstanding opportunity for student entrepreneurs and innovators.

Hayfa Aboukier,
Office of University Initiatives

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

ASU Online named Product of the Year by Pearson Higher Ed

February 13, 2012

ASU Online has been awarded the prestigious Pearson Product of the Year award by Pearson Higher Education, a leading education services company that provides educational materials, technologies, assessments and related services to their partners.

The accolade marks the first time in the award’s history that a service-based educational partnership has received the Product of the Year Award rather than a piece of educational content, such as a textbook or software. Pearson Product of the Year award Download Full Image

“The partnership that we have with ASU was seen as so groundbreaking in terms of its academic ambition, business model and a technology capabilities, that it was an upset winner of the Product of the Year Award,” said Matt Leavy, CEO of Pearson. “We are working to improve student achievement and fill the demand for a higher quality education in an online format. We found a perfect partner in ASU to do that.”

Referred to as the “Third Way” Partnership, ASU Online and Pearson combine the components of in-person classes and advances of online software to provide a more supportive online learning environment. This innovative approach combines the benefits of “The First Way” – a traditional, on-campus, research-based environment – with “The Second Way,” which provides access to education and scalability through online learning options. This synthesis known as “The Third Way” combines the benefits of each learning modality, thus aiming to change the world of online education.

While ASU faculty design the curriculum and teach the courses, Pearson monitors and analyzes trends in student performance, tracks the achievement of learning objectives and goals, and provides enrollment support services to students. The pair, then, works together to enhance marketing, online advising and recruiting efforts based on the ASU brand.  

“With Pearson’s help we have been able to accelerate growth, increase retention and provide our students with the foundation and resources to succeed,” said Philip Regier, executive vice provost and dean of ASU Online.

ASU Online seeks to continue to extend their reach of prospective students and provide better access to a quality online education in a traditionally classroom-based model. The achievements strategically align with ASU President Michael Crow’s vision for projected growth and expanded access to education.

There are currently more than 50 program offered entirely online, and approximately 4,000 students are enrolled in ASU Online. For a complete list of degrees, visit