Student entrepreneurs look to streamline construction projects

Any building project involves architects, construction workers, project managers and others. As a result, possibilities for miscommunication and cost overruns are plentiful.

Two UWM student entrepreneurs are developing a way to overcome these problems, especially in developing countries where language and technology barriers add to the challenges.

Sidonie Dessoubret, a junior in information science, and Jeremi Lukos, a junior in architecture and urban planning, won $1,000 for second place in a UWM pitch contest in March for Insite, a platform designed to make construction projects simpler to manage. They are continuing to refine Insite, getting input from architects and builders they’ve shared it with.

They’re also planning to enter entrepreneurial pitch competitions at Summerfest Tech, the WiSys Big Idea Tournament and others.

“Jeremi had the idea for a startup to streamline construction management that would use augmented reality software,” said Dessoubret.  “In construction, there are a lot of people involved. You have the architect, the mechanics, electricians, plumbers, project manager and lot more.”

Using augmented reality

Basically, their platform overlays a prototype on an augmented reality video of what’s happening so everyone can spot concerns before they become issues. The video is stored in the cloud so all those involved in a project can access it. “You can use it from a laptop or desktop computer, a cell phone or a tablet,” Dessoubret said. Pricing would be through a subscription, though they are still fine-tuning their business plan.

Lukos and Dessoubret got to know each other when they were both in the campus ambassador program. In addition, they are both international students – Dessoubret is from France and Lukos is from India. Dessoubret’s mother is a UWM alumna, and Lukos was attracted to UWM because of the strong architecture program.

When they started this project, they found their skills in architecture and information technology complemented each other. In addition to working on his architecture degree, Lukos’ family is in the construction business, so he spent time in high school working on building projects in India, which helped inspire the idea for Insite.

“I just realized how inefficient everything was, especially in dealing with problems,” he said.

Fine-tuning their product

In addition to entering entrepreneurial competitions, the team has put up a YouTube video about the product and is meeting with architects and construction managers to get their feedback and fine tune what they are developing,

“We don’t want to build a product that nobody wants,” Dessoubret said.

Two School of Information Studies alumni, Blaze Smith and Anila Rudi, have also helped develop the platform.

“When we told them about the project, they were super excited and said they’d help out in any way,” Dessoubret said. “They’re already in the workforce, so it’s really cool to have them involved.”

Less common in developing countries

The School of Information Studies was very helpful in donating space, data structures and software, according to Lukos and Dessoubret.

While construction firms in North America already use technology in their projects, it’s less commonly used in developing countries, where technology may be more limited, Lukos said.

However, he added, there are also opportunities in those areas with more people moving to cities.

“They need more offices, more buildings, more daycares,” Lukos said. “People want to live in beautiful spaces and with this technology, they can build more quickly and efficiently.”

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