Mt. Diablo High School's Digital Safari Academy students wowed the business world with their beyond-the-edge technology GreenBiz Project companies at the eighth annual Innovation Fair.
"This year's projects were probably the most creative," said Randy Depew, multimedia instructor of the Digital Safari Academy. "I think we had the best year overall with project quality."
Twelve companies showcased their products in hopes of catching the eye of small investors, venture capitalists and ultimately the panel of judges representing angel investors making the final winning decision.
Ghostpower raised the largest amount of virtual capital, $1.5 million, for harnessing electromagnetic waves with its so-called Electro Tower to charge phones, laptops and tablets without having to use a chord.
Those attending the fair were staked with $50,000 in virtual money to give to the company of their choice. Those playing the role of venture capitalists were given $250,000 to invest.
Although NeverLost raised the second-largest amount of virtual capital -- coming in with $1.2 million -- the team with its child safety bracelet walked away with the $1,000 in real-money scholarships.
Raising capital at the fair is only one part of the process, said Mark Westwind, founder of the GreenBiz Project. First, teams are assigned and given the challenge to come up with a product and a company name. Then the product has to be developed -- but unlike developing a cutting-edge product -- students are told they have no technical limitations.
"The technology doesn't have to be real. If you can imagine it, you can make it," Westwind said. "That changed the dynamics to innovation without limitation."
Westwind and Depew opened a virtual company, Universal Enterprise, which is able to supply students with whatever they need.
"Anything you need, we got it on the shelf," Westwind said.
And Depew noted, "These kids have to come up with these products out of thin air."
Although some theoretical projects are too far off cutting edge, many students saw similar projects, such as solar-sensitive paint, collision-sensing vehicle technology and other concepts come on the market soon after being showcased at the fair.
This year, the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce became a sponsor of the fair and held its January mixer at the event. Chamber chief operating officer Marilyn Fowler said about 50 members participated.
"We were so proud to bring all those businesses to see the Innovation Fair," she said. "It is something we definitely want to do next year."
Businessmen, businesswomen and entrepreneurs commented that products showcased at this year's fair are nipping at the heals of similar products currently on their drawing boards.
Although the winning product -- NeverLost -- is not on anyone's drawing board, it drew a lot of attention, along with repeated advice to Mt. Diablo student CEO Julianna Cecere to register the practical product before it got snatched up by a business or investor attending the fair.
"I got a (huge number) of comments I should put my name on the product before someone else steals it," said Cecere, who, along with CFO Mary Uy and marketing director Tyler Clark, came up with the product idea.
Cecere said as soon as she has finals out of the way she is registering the product.
The idea came out of a brainstorming session. Cecere comes from a large family and wanted a product that would help parents keep track of their kids. Uy remembered being lost as a child and how scary it was.
The group first thought of creating an application to tie in with 911, but rejected the thought due to the number of applications for all sorts of things currently on the market.
"We are calling this the year of the app," Cecere said. "The phone already has something like that."
The three continued their quest, deciding on a bracelet worn by a child that uses "micro-GPS technology to keep track of your child in crowds easily, safely and without worry, giving you and your child the freedom you deserve."
Some of the features of the bracelet are a panic button if the child thinks she is lost and a special stay-in-place signal so parents can come to the child.
The Ghostpower team wanted technology to compliment the increasing mobility of people by freeing them from having to plug into a stationary electrical outlet.
The other companies represented were Bonkers, Accessibility, Simple Testing, Inspir3D, Case Clothes, Sonic Vision, Smartshop, Jetstream, Sexy Soles and Vital Success.
Before companies showcase their wares, they need to build their product, have a business plan and present it to a board of mentors. Each process is graded and scored, and those are added with the virtual dollars scoring to select five finalists to go before the angel investors.
The finalists were NeverLost, Ghostpower, Sonic Vision, Inspir3D and Simple Testing.
Sonic Vision produces a bat lens using patented sonar vision technology to create a 3D environment for the wearer, allowing them to see in pitch-black conditions. Its target market is first responders, tactical police units and the armed forces.
Inspir3D is a patented zoomable, rotatable and ultra-responsive three-dimensional holographic imaging of an MRI result that responds to touch allowing doctors to use all their senses to solve a medical problem.
Simple Testing is a treatment of diabetes using a new saliva glucose monitoring system for immediate results of a person's blood glucose levels. It is tied in with a smart phone application for constant monitoring.
Also on display were products to shop for perfectly fitted clothes through individual avatar connection; shopping the grocery aisles with a smartphone bar code scanner that access the nutritional facts and recipe suggestions of food; a new video game system; a smartphone application to simplify and personalize the myriad applications.
Also available was a custom-fitted sole designed to eliminate bunions, hammer toes, back pain and other common foot maladies associated with women's fashion shoes; an amusement park ride; and a fully immersive virtual reality software for people with special needs.