Student Benjamin Rodriguez (center) with alumni Sarit Kapur (left)
and Ron Blumoff
UTSA Impact: UTSA Opens Doors, Part II -- UTSA alumni, students, faculty participate in prestigious Canary Islands symposium
By Wendy Frost
Director of Communications, College of Business
(Sept. 9, 2008)--Two UTSA Executive M.B.A. students experienced an opportunity of a lifetime when they presented their research at an academic symposium interposed between presentations by two Nobel laureates. Dr. Ron Blumoff and Sarit Kapur, recent EMBA graduates, were among a select group of 100 postgraduates chosen worldwide to attend the prestigious Campus of Excellence in the Canary Islands.
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The six-day academic conference, which addressed science, technology and social welfare issues in emerging economies, was attended by numerous Nobel laureates, world leaders, presidents, ambassadors, professors and students from around the world. It provided a meeting point for today's researchers to present their innovative and feasible projects to the leaders of the world.
Other UTSA participants were Mauli Agrawal, dean of the College of Engineering; William Flannery, director of the College of Business management of technology program; Julius Gribou, executive vice provost; Cory Hallam, director of the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship; and engineering student Benjamin Rodriguez.
"This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with people from all over the world," said Kapur, director of enterprise architecture at Pearson Education in San Antonio.
Participating in the symposium was the culmination of a semester-long social entrepreneurship project undertaken by the College of Business graduating Executive M.B.A. class. The class was divided into four teams and tasked with developing a business plan utilizing a green ammonia absorption refrigeration system developed by a team of UTSA senior engineering students to improve the cold-chain process for storing vaccines in Africa.
According to the World Health Organization, the cold-chain system is a means for storing and transporting vaccines from the manufacturer to the people being immunized. This is a logistical challenge, especially in developing countries, where most individuals live in rural areas. Fifty percent of the current cold chain solutions are inefficient with more than 600,000 children dying each year due to vaccine preventable diseases.
"This project gave our students the opportunity to push their boundaries and learn the impact they can have on the world," said Hallam, who taught the course. "Social entrepreneurs not only create a viable business, but they do so in a way to affect change within society."
Throughout the semester, the teams met and developed business models supporting their concepts. During final presentations, a winning plan was selected. The winning team was CoolLife and consisted of students Alfred Baumbusch, Ron Blumoff, Matt Edman, Sarit Kapur, Rob LaPorte, Todd Ramsay and Ryan Wasmus.
They designed the business development plan for LifeCube, a self-sustaining, solar-powered, portable refrigeration device. The team hopes to fully develop their product and then hand it off to a nonprofit organization to deploy in Africa.
"We would like to bring this project to fruition," said Blumoff, a vascular surgeon who is pursuing a career in administrative health care policy. "Our ideas were well received at this worldwide, humanitarian conference. It was a humbling experience; we came back better people."