By Ella Rook
Nearly a year ago, juniors Emily Hom and Joelene Latief joined the Oracle Education Foundation’s Wearable Tech class. They had no idea that this would lead them to Open World, a patent, and winning second place at the Blue Ocean Entrepreneurship Contest. A contest that aims to empower innovative high schoolers and expose them to the world of business. Their idea was a pickpocket-proof purse. The purse is connected by Bluetooth to a small wearable item, like a ring. The user then scans the ring on the purse zipper to unlock it. If a pick pocketer tries to open the purse without scanning the ring, the ring will vibrate to alert the user, and the zipper will sound an alarm.
“It just started off as a regular design project during intersession,” says Latief, “and then we thought that it was kinda cool and we wanted to continue with it. So [Oracle] told us about OpenWorld, and of course we were really excited for the opportunity, so we started working on it more.” Throughout the summer Hom and Latief worked on their purse, testing and tweaking their design. During the fall, an Oracle volunteer named Leon Young helped them after school to develop a working prototype. They went through many different iterations including using weight sensors, pressure sensors, and even heat sensors. However, when OpenWorld came, they were ready to present and were given a small booth to share their project with passersby.
After OpenWorld, teacher Rob Bolt helped the girls file for a patent. Bolt said that he, “helped make the connection through the Oracle Education Foundation to the legal department.” He also guided Hom and Latief through their initial meetings. Emily reflected on the experience saying that, “It was kinda scary because [the legal department] was doing all of this for us – for free – and we didn’t want to let them down, it also made me realize how much Oracle did to help us.” With all their paperwork submitted, they are now on their last step: waiting for the patent to be filed.
The decision to enter the Blue Ocean Entrepreneurship Contest was made on a whim. They thought that it would be fun to enter their purse into a competition, and searched the internet, stumbling across Blue Ocean. Neither partner expected that they would end up placing, or winning a $500 cash prize. The criteria they would be judged on were innovation/creativity, presentation, viability, and product/market knowledge. Upon arriving at the competition, Latief noticed that, “We were one of only two female teams and all the boys were wearing suits, so it was kind of intimidating.” Hom also remembered that, “All the other contestants had Mac [computer] displays and fully working prototypes and we felt really unprepared.” Nervousness aside, the girls were well rehearsed, and their pitch to a panel of entrepreneurship experts went off without a hitch. Latief thinks that what allowed them to win, was the fact that, “Even though [our purse] may not have been something that was necessarily world-saving or life-changing, the product we came up with was marketable to people, and we actually had a functioning prototype.”
In the future the girls hope to take the project as far as it can go. Latief said that she, “doesn’t know if it will ever turn into a real product, but wants to look into that and develop the prototype more, because it’s still a bunch of wires.”