"Fantasy Academics" Garners Entrepreneur of the Year Award at Touro College's Lander College for Men

Date: June 12, 2012
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Gabe Kahn
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New York, N.Y. – Dov Herzberg, a student at Rambam Mesivta High School in Lawrence, N.Y., was named grand prize winner of the 2011-2012 Lander College for Men (LCM) Student Entrepreneur of the Year Competition held at LCM’s Queens campus in Kew Gardens Hills, N.Y. The competition, which gives students at yeshiva high schools an opportunity to create new inventions and potential business ventures to stimulate their ingenuity, is in its fourth year

Herzberg earned the grand prize for his “Fantasy Academics” concept, a takeoff on sports fantasy games applied to education. His idea was to develop an interactive game, similar to College Bowl, in which students could “draft” other students as teammates to compete against other teams in online academic contests. Students would be able to compete within their own class, their own school, regionally, nationally or internationally for accolades and prizes, funded by advertising on the proposed site.

“We believe deeply in the importance of stimulating students to think creatively,” said Dr. Moshe Sokol, dean of LCM. “Dov Herzberg, and all the finalists, demonstrated that creativity with new ideas that can change the lives of countless people for the better.”

The judges all agreed that the idea might not be limited to academic circles; it could also be applied to businesses for training purposes as well.

“It was a winning idea with tremendous commercial applications, especially now that schools must demonstrate to accreditation boards that students are learning,” said Dr. Ira Teich, in his second year as the competition director. “Students across the country would be able to participate in this online medium.”

Students from yeshiva high schools throughout the country participated in the competition. They were asked to submit, either individually or as part of a team, brief summaries of up to 500 words describing their idea or invention. A distinguished panel of judges, consisting of LCM business faculty, then offered the students suggestions and encouragement to help them develop their basic plans into final business plans, which are usually about 10 pages and include a sales and financial forecast. The plans were then judged in their final versions, with up to five selected as finalists. The contestants were invited to make oral presentations to a second panel of judges consisting of leading business entrepreneurs, executives and educators.

The winners were chosen based upon their creativity, soundness of business plans, and their oral presentations. Prizes totaling $3,000 were awarded, with $1,500 given to grand prize winners, $1,000 to second place winners and $500 to third place winners. All winners received plaques honoring their achievements. This year’s competition was sponsored by Stuart and Judy Rosen, LCM board members and Bruce Lilker of Lilker Associates Consulting Engineers. Both Stuart and Lilker are members of the board.

The second place award went to the team of Ari Lopatin, Eli Shulman and David Berko of Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy in Elizabeth, N.J., for their invention, “Med Watch,” a bottle cap for prescription medications to remind patients when to take each dose. Third place went to the team of Julie Yagudaev and Sarah Pinhasov of Ezra Academy in Forest Hills, N.Y., for creating the concept called “Heat & Go,” a heated seat cushion for people in wheelchairs. Gabriel Lerner, also of Rambam, received an honorable mention for his invention called “Life Straw,” a straw with a built-in filter to make liquids potable.

The panel judges consisted of Steve Brown, CFO of Cardis International and chairman of the LCM board of overseers; Seymour Liebman, executive vice president of Canon USA, board member of Canon Worldwide and graduate of Touro College’s Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center; and Moshe Berger, chief executive officer of Zenoradio and the former CEO of IDT entertainment.

Investors have actually inquired about the winning entry from the first year of the contest. Eric Forkosh, a student from Rambam, had the idea for an alert system for children waiting to get picked up by school buses in inclement weather telling them when the busses are within a 30 to 60 second span from the pickup location to allow them to wait inside.

The Lander College for Men is an undergraduate division of Touro College, in service to the Jewish community. Established in the fall of 2000 and located in Queens, N.Y., the Lander College for Men is grounded in a dual curriculum of intensive Torah study and a wide range of academic programs, and students major in professionally oriented disciplines. Lander College for Men provides students with an environment that produces ethical, mature, and well-rounded professionals committed to scholarship and career growth. Many alumni go on to serve as lay leaders of their communities, or rabbis and Jewish educators, shaping the future of Jewish life. Dedicated to Touro’s mission of perpetuating the Jewish heritage, Lander College for Men prepares students to uphold the ideals of Torah and pursue positions of professional and communal leadership.