- Associated Press - Saturday, July 2, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Two Nebraska Wesleyan University students have won an entrepreneurial competition for their stir sticks that detect the presence of date-rape drugs in drinks.

Gwen Plouzek and Stacie Skaff recently beat out eight other college teams from Lincoln, South Carolina and Estonia to win this year’s Network Globally, Act Locally competition, the Lincoln Journal Star reported (https://bit.ly/291GUYp ). Along with the bragging rights comes $3,000 to use toward further development of their startup company, SipSafe.

The company produces stir sticks that, when swirled in a drink, change color if they detect the presence of ketamine, Rohypnol or GHB.

Plouzek said she came up with the idea while talking with her mother about the need for a reliable, discreet test for those so-called date-rape drugs, which can be slipped into an unsuspecting person’s drink to hasten their intoxication or render them unconscious.

“We were thinking about how our science backgrounds could be applicable” in what is primarily a business competition, Plouzek said.

Earlier this year, Plouzek and Skaff filed for a patent on the approach they developed in labs at Wesleyan and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Their idea beat out other impressive startups - including one from fellow Wesleyan student Jared Carlson, who is building a mechanism for businesses to provide small loans to their employees, allowing them to bypass predatory payday lenders. Carlson said 11 companies have signed on to beta test his product, which is geared toward the restaurant, hotel and construction industries.

Plouzek and Skaff hope to eventually sell their stirring sticks in bulk to colleges, as well as provide dispensers that could be located in bar restrooms.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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