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Oklahoma millennial entrepreneurs seek to save lives, money

Deon Osborne / Red Dirt Report
BlyncSync co-founder Steven Kastelic displays a prototype for a wearable biometric that detects fatigue levels of truck drivers at the Red River Reception in Dallas on Oct. 7.
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NORMAN, Okla. – University of Oklahoma students and a recent graduate are taking their classroom idea to the real world with a startup technology company aimed at lowering the number of costly and deadly trucking accidents on the road.

BlyncSync (Blink-Sink), created out of the OU’s Sooner Launch Pad program inside the Michael F. Price College of Business, uses software to collect data on vital signs. 

Through wearable biometrics located on a truck driver’s body, trucking companies are able to monitor the real-time and projected fatigue levels of their drivers during their routes.

Software developer Joshua Babb, left, and co-founder Steven Kastelic, right, present their company BlyncSync at OU Price College of Business’s annual Red River Reception in Dallas on Oct. 7.

Calling themselves “social entrepreneurs,” co-founders Austin Green and Steven Kastelic, coder Braden James and software developer Joshua Babb are creating a platform to make both a social and economic impact. 

By reducing the rate of trucking accidents, taxpayers, companies and municipalities will have the benefits of safer roads and more money devoted to jobs, infrastructure, education and healthcare, rather than collision damage.

Oklahoma’s no stranger to roadway accidents. In 2015 there were more than 5,400 large-truck related accidents in the state alone, according to data from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office. Those same accidents caused the injury or death of nearly 13,000 people, not to mention the potential thousands of dollars of cost per accident.

Unfortunately, the slight rise in large-truck related traffic accidents in Oklahoma is following a national trend. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a statement in August detailing a call to action from U.S. government agencies to fund research and technologies that help organizations, businesses, and municipalities tackle the issue. 

The urgent call came amid a recent NHTSA report showing that from 2014 to 2015 there was a rise of traffic deaths in virtually all segments of the U.S. population. The 7.2 percent increase nationwide is the largest rate of increase since 1966. As part of their call to action, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it’s looking to “accelerate technologies that may make driving safer.”

Along with BlyncSync, three other OU startups presented their products and services at the 40th annual Red River Reception at the Omni Hotel in Dallas on Oct. 7. 

Price College of Business’s Dean Daniel Pullin told Red Dirt Report the reception is an opportunity for alumni, donors and friends to celebrate the impact that the college is making on Oklahoma, the nation and OU’s students. 

Pullin said his goal is to give students practical real-world, experiential learning opportunities that ultimately can create jobs, new companies and diversify Oklahoma’s economy.

Mobi

Nikita Hussain, an OU senior graduating in December, was tasked with identifying major issues in the pediatric hospital environment. She found that the major problem involved the lack of mobility and independence a sick child deals with while being monitored. 

Naturally, Hussain created the idea for a mobile vital sense monitor, or “Mobi,” that would measure children’s’ vital signs in real-time, while also allowing them more freedom to play and be independent.

Moreover, Hussain said it takes on average 30 minutes per shift per nurse to monitor each patient’s vital sign once. That adds to the heavy load nurses already face and increases the cost hospitals face.

“For one hospital, OU Children’s Med, on one floor you’d lose one full time equivalent, which is about 40 hours,” Hussain said.

Nutripeutics

OU senior Amanda Curtis founded a company that offers natural alternatives to antibiotics by using compounds that increase the production of naturally made immune defenses in an animal’s body.

Curtis said she was inspired by both the movement toward more organic food and the rise in drug-resistant bacteria. Due to health risks, the FDA is requesting antibiotics be voluntarily removed from livestock feed by December 2016.

“There’s going to be this huge hole in the market with the removal of these antibiotics, and we’re hopefully going to be there with an answer,” Curtis said.

Trivirtual

OU senior Brett Fene worked with an Oklahoma City software company and other social entrepreneurs to utilize a virtual reality platform that was initially created to help hair stylists learn different hair-cutting techniques.

Fene said they sought to find groups that were more in need and settled on children with autism.  A seemingly mundane task such as crossing the street, for instance, could at first be traumatizing for a child with autism. VR, however, is a tool with the potential to give these children the confidence to approach new environments. 

“Virtual Reality in the classroom could help prepare them and build a routine,” Fene said.

BlyncSync

Moving from a flawed classroom idea to a refined plan seeking financial investment, OU graduate Steven Kastelic and his co-founders updated their software and tweaked their hardware in order to be accepted into the Sooner Launchpad incubator earlier this year, where out of about 16 applicants, only three were accepted.

Steven Kastelic, left, explains BlyncSync to a mentor, OU Price College of Business professor Dr. Jack Kasulis, right.

BlyncSync won a $10,000 investment from the program to expand their research and development. Since then, there’s been prototype testing of the wearable biometrics on at least one driver, and talks with Wal-Mart about expanding testing to more drivers and trucking companies.

All four social entrepreneur startups are seeking more support and investment to scale their research and provide platforms for a better economic future.

“BlyncSync is one of many promising ventures,” Dean Pullin said.

Photos by Red Dirt Report’s Deon Osborne.

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Deon Osborne

Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Deon Osborne moved to Lawton, OK at the age of 11. He...

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