When Jesus Portillo (BSBA ’13) entered the Dr. Sushil Bhatia Competition for Innovative Ideas last fall, he didn’t even think he would make it past the first round.

He not only finished as a finalist, but he’s currently turning his idea into a real-life product on the market. His product, called iRead, is an electronic device similar to an iPad. It’s specifically designed for visually-impaired people, allowing them to read, surf the web, take tests, and much more, all with just one device.

Portillo came up with the idea for the iRead after an experience he had in a Suffolk University classroom. Sitting in class, he noticed the struggles one of his visually-impaired classmates was facing every day.

“I was really curious about how could she manage to take notes, use textbooks, or take tests,” he said.

Portillo described how the student would have to take separate quizzes in braille, and use multiple laptops and electronic devices just so she was able to do things as simple as take notes, or look up information on the Internet.

“So then I thought, ‘what if I could combine all her devices and add some improvements to allow her to download tests, class notes, etc.?’ And that´s how I came up with iRead,” Portillo said.

After months of brainstorming and developing, Portillo entered his idea in the Competition for Innovative Ideas.

Portillo Wins 13K for His Big Idea

In the final round of the competition, Portillo pitched his product to the judges. It was up to them whether Portillo’s idea was worth an investment.

“I loved the day I presented,” he said. “All the judges were very professional and supportive. They asked important questions that ultimately helped me make the product better. When it was over, I felt that even if I didn´t win, the experience was worth every minute of my hard work.”

The judges were impressed with Portillo’s idea. They awarded him $3,000 in cash and $10,000 in services to help him get product off the ground.

Today, Portillo is working with a Miami-based company that he’s hoping will invest in his product.

And the competition is also helping him stand out in job interviews.

“I’ve had about 10 job interviews since winning, and every employer is extremely interested in learning more about the competition. It shows that I’m innovative and self-motivated. And it’s a great way to prove that I’m a skilled researcher and presenter.”