System Improves Trucker Safety, Wins Stella Zhang New Venture Competition Grand Prize at UCI

IRVINE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–An AI-enhanced system that watches over truck drivers and warns them when they are drowsy or distracted – without violating their privacy – took the top prize at the Stella Zhang New Venture Competition Grand Finale at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business.

The Sentinel team took home the $20,000 grand prize in addition to $10,000 for winning the Business Products and Services category in the 20th annual New Venture Competition – the third with Stella Zhang as the title sponsor. Sentinel topped nine other finalist teams after the seven-month journey to this final pitch event.

“This is one of my favorite evenings of the year,” said Dr. Ian Williamson, dean of the Paul Merage School of Business. “It’s my favorite because we are seeing our future, the stars and makers of our future here. We started this process with more than 400 individuals. What we’re seeing here tonight is the best of the best.”

Zhang, who earned a master’s of business administration in 2005 from the UCI Paul Merage School of Business, was praised for providing the “transformational” gift that has raised the level of the competition. She is the Chief Operations Officer at American Lending Center, based in Irvine. She spoke to the crowd about the importance of perseverance and forming partnerships in the quest for entrepreneurial success.

Sentinel’s team members are Kyle Deck, Michael Ross, Cody He, Spike O’Carrol, Natan Ampudia and Kevin Wu. Their warning system uses a video camera connected to a computer analyzer to watch for drowsiness or other signs of distracted driving, offering an immediate warning to the driver. The program uses machine learning to get progressively better at recognizing early signs of trouble.

Sentinel’s system is preferred by truck drivers interviewed by the team because it turns off and does not monitor drivers when the rig is not in motion. While it does provide a record to review in case of incidents, there is no automatic feed of video.

Runnerup in the competition was the Neomold team of bio-engineers, who have created a 3-D printed customizable ear mold that non-surgically corrects newborn babies’ outer ear deformities within 2-6 weeks of birth, avoiding surgery. They took home an additional $5,000.

Teams also found out whether they had finished first or second in their respective categories. It made a difference – first place teams received $10,000 while second place was worth $5,000.

First place category winning teams were Sentinel, Flare, Quiver, Two Cube and PZ Nanopure. Runnerups were Bagit, Lynne, Crafty Palate, Neomold and DermaVision.

The Stella Zhang New Venture Competition is organized by the Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. For more information, go to the website.

About American Lending Center: A Financial Times (FT) America’s Fastest Growing Company   

American Lending Center (ALC) is a private nonbank lending institution and nationally recognized leader in small business lending.

By early 2024, ALC has fully financed senior loan products to 94 qualified EB-5 projects in 31 states, contributing to a combined construction and business expansion budget of over 1.2 billion dollars. ALC’s lending practice has successfully created more than 20,000 new jobs nationwide since 2009.

In 2022, ALC launched its new rural construction and development fund with capital available for the construction of fixed assets of all types in rural areas including manufacturing, energy, infrastructure, hospitality, specialty use, multi-use and other project types.  Follow American Lending Center on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.