Yeshiva student Eric Forkosh has a knack for thinking up prize-winning inventions that solve everyday problems.
His latest came from his frustration in trying to exercise while listening to his iPod.
So Forkosh designed headphones for athletes that are inflated to fit snugly either inside or over the ears - and stay in place. They are inflated with a manual air pump that he also designed.
The invention won Forkosh and a classmate, George Bangiyev, 18, of Long Beach, second place and a $1,000 prize at the Student Entrepreneur of the Year Competition held by the J. Morton Davis/Lander College for Men in Flushing, Queens. Bangiyev developed their 10-page business plan and a PowerPoint presentation to demonstrate the product's viability.
Lander College is part of a system of Jewish-sponsored nonprofit institutions of higher and professional education, which also include Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in Central Islip and Touro College School of Health Sciences in Bay Shore.
Third place and a $500 prize went to a classmate, Gilad Katz, 17, of North Woodmere for a Cat Cafe, where cat lovers can drink coffee and socialize with about two dozen resident felines.
This year's grand prize went to two students from Magen David Yeshivah in Brooklyn for Winergy, which recycles hot air released by central air conditioner units. Avraham Daphna, 17, and Motti Sturm, 18, both of Woodmere, who are students at Mesivta Ateres Yaakov High School in Hewlett, won honorable mention. They developed plans for a state-of-the-art Jewish community center for the Five Towns.
Ingenuity and entrepreneurship are apparently thriving among the region's yeshiva students. "This year's contest was especially challenging since we received a tremendous increase in the number of submissions over last year," said Ira Teich, assistant professor of marketing and management at Lander and director of this year's competition. "It was very tough to narrow them down to just five finalists."
Thirty-one business plans were entered from yeshiva high schools in the metropolitan area. The winners were chosen by a panel of business entrepreneurs, executives and educators, who judged them on creativity, sound business plans and oral presentations.
Preparing for the competition gave the students lessons in combining creativity and business, they said.
Bangiyev said he conducted market research and found "more than 5 million potential customers" for the snug-fitting headphones - a number that doesn't include the millions of non-athletes who might also use the product.
He said the project taught him "the value of teamwork . . . and the mechanics of a business." Added Bangiyev, who plans to attend New York University in the fall, "It taught me how to go from an idea to a real product and to commercialize an invention."
For Forkosh, it was further proof that hard work brings results. Last year he took home the grand prize for another of his inventions, Bus Alert. It's a household device for families with schoolchildren that displays the current time and the scheduled school bus arrival time. It's especially useful on rainy days when parents don't want their children to get wet at the bus stop, Forkosh says.
"I have always been tinkering and trying out different things," he said, using the phrase "99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration" to describe his effort.
"You get really frustrated, but once you solve it, you feel great," added Forkosh, who will be going to college in the fall at The Cooper Union in Manhattan.
Katz said that "through my research, I think I have . . . increased my business ability and knowledge." His winning business plan for a Cat Cafe includes details such as cat caretakers' responsibilities and veterinary care. The idea is based on similar cafes in Japan, Katz said.
Katz said he's not a "cat lover," but "I do like animals."
"The whole concept . . . is that everyone should have a connection with something or someone," he said.