Words and Photos: Jonah Drenning
On Saturday, March 21, 32 teams gathered at Centennial High School to participate in a special kind of business competition: the Maryland Blue Ocean Competition. Founded by Centennial Senior Nick Benavides, the second iteration of his competition required students to develop and present “blue ocean” business ideas.
But what does “blue ocean” even mean? According to the best-selling book “Blue Ocean Strategy”, whose co-author Renee Mauborgne was a keynote speaker at the event, blue ocean strategy is the use of uncontested market space to make competition irrelevant. In other words, the business ideas are so new and innovative that they will have no business competitors.
The presentations kicked off at 11:20 am where groups featuring topics such as cloud computing, sports injury treatment, farming, and fashion were split into in four different rooms to present their ideas to judging panels composed of local business leaders and entrepreneurs. Teams were scored from one to five in four different categories (innovation/creativity, viability, knowledge, and presentation) and the top scorers from each room and the four next best scoring teams moved on to the final round of presentations.
Before the final round started, workshops dealing with topics from 3D Printing and mobile development to thinking outside the box and balancing entrepreneurship with college were held for the participants to attend. The workshops were led by figures in the community with business experience, including Centennial’s own teacher, Mr. Lee.
Beginning at 4:15 pm, the final presentations began and boasted an audience that filled Centennial’s entire media center. The presentations were well-rehearsed and several groups showed off prototypes and talked of deals with companies. All the teams were very respectful and could be seen shaking hands and applauding after other groups’ presentations.
“The finalists presented very developed ideas,” said Benavides, “A few teams have already started selling their products.”
In the end, first place went to team LyfeCord, whose members are from McDonogh. Their product is a nylon and polyester phone charger for Apple devices that prevents fraying and other damage that frequently occurs (more information can be found at lyfecord.com).
Team GelGear won second place with stylish and affordable concussion protection equipment and third place was awarded to team ProtoCast, who developed a new method to manufacture metal parts using 3D-printed plastic molds. Other finalists were Vicinities, LLC (event-matching social network), Hawks, Inc. (turbine used to recharge electric/hybrid cars), SoundCheck (music comparing and evaluating software), EliteU (peer-to-peer online tutoring), and Agrius Games (multiplayer card game).
Blue Ocean Committee members Pranav Ganapathy and Andrew Deng remarked, “This year Maryland Blue Ocean Competition is expanding horizons and we tried to attract more people from around the state.”
The competition was open to competitors statewide and attracted students from schools such as McDonogh, Gilman, River Hill, and Atholton as well as many others. However, the competition began at Centennial and is run entirely by students, many of whom are from Centennial.
“We’re proud of all the teams who have competed today. Thanks for making Blue Ocean a success!” proclaimed committee member Kunal Pathade.
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