Business Students Earn First, Third, and Audience Favorite in Idea Pitch Competition

Students winners of the Idea Pitch Competition pose with certificates.
Winners of the Idea Pitch Competition representing the Michigan Tech College of Business—Alex Bos (second from left); Asia Motta (third from left); and Noel Kamdem-Tegue (third from right)

Congratulations to Idea Pitch Competition winners representing the Michigan Tech College of Business (COB): In first place—Anastasia (Asia) Motta with The Droplet; in third place—Alex Bos with The SELF Couch; and the audience-favorite—Noel Kamdem-Tegue with Black Earth Rising, a food truck.

Contestants had 120 seconds to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges—Elham Asgari (COB); Erich Petushek (CLS), Mark Rudnicki (CFRES), Briana Tucker (Enterprise), Jason Mack, (MTEC SmartZone); and Rourke Sylvain (BioMed)—during the competition, which took place October 4 in the Great Lakes Research Center. Master’s in engineering management student Bayle Golden emceed the event. 

Asia Motta—The Droplet

Faculty member Jonathan Leinonen stands to the left of student Asia Motta
Jonathan Leinonen (left), teaching professor in management, awards Asia Motta (right) first place honors.

Motta, a senior-level engineering management student in the College of Business, earned $200 as the first-place winner for her idea, the Droplet, a gyroscopic planter allowing users to take fronded friends on the go.

The Rockford, Michigan, native thought up the concept one day on campus after receiving her own succulent at a library event. Upon researching houseplants and discovering that the most common causes of failure to thrive were neglect from being left alone and caretakers being unaware of plant care, Motta knew her solution could help.

Her planter, equipped with moisture, sunlight, and nutrient sensors tied to a user-friendly, database-driven app, will give plant owners real-time updates and tips for care. “Call it a Tamagotchi for plants,” Motta says. Motta brought a partner, software engineering student Zane Smalley, on board, and together they developed a 3D-printed prototype. The model was presented during the Idea Pitch Competition without electronics.
With the first-place prize and energy from the win, the duo is developing a next-gen prototype with an improved gyroscope, which they intend to present during the Michigan Collegiate Startup Challenge at Michigan State and the Bob Mark Business Model Pitch Competition. Simultaneously, they are exploring the patentability of their smart travel planter with the Van Pelt and Opie Library. The current plan is to find a manufacturing partner and launch the simple gyroscope planter to gauge consumer interest while generating funds to support future expansion into the app-enabled model. 

Alex Bos—the SELF Couch

Student Alex Bos posing with certificate
Alex Bos earned third place following his pitch of the SELF Couch.

Bos’s idea for space-efficient linked furniture (SELF) came about over the summer when he and his roommate were struggling with how to fit furniture up the narrow stairway of their apartment (Think: “Pivot!” from Friends). Being able to disassemble furniture was essential to getting it up the stairs. Enter the SELF Couch. The lounger consists of four interlocking pieces that assemble without tools or fasteners. In under one minute, the couch can be put together and broken down, as well as moved, by a single person. The target audience for the SELF Couch, says Bos, an engineering management major, is fellow college-age students. The invention seeks to make moving to and from tight quarters easier without taking up precious cargo space, which is already at a premium when considering other dorm or apartment essentials including clothing, school supplies, household items, and other furniture.

With his $50 prize earnings, Bos, who calls Holland, Michigan, home, plans to develop a survey to gather data on interest in the concept. From there, he will also consider how to optimize production efficiency.

Noel Kamdem-Tegue—Black Earth Rising

Noel Kamdem-Tegue, a scientific and technical communications major pursuing a business minor at Tech, presented Black Earth Rising, an international food truck concept serving African and Indian food so diverse communities can enjoy their home favorites. Kamdem-Tegue’s idea, which he calls “more than a project, but a dream,” builds on a micro-internship project. After being named audience favorite and receiving $25, Kamdem-Tegue is working on acquiring a Cottage Foods License to begin serving his recipes to fellow students from his home. Afterwards, he’ll also secure a food truck, complete market research, and finalize a menu. 

Bob Mark Business Model Competition

The Idea Pitch Competition is the first of three annual campus pitch competitions hosted by Husky Innovate, a collaboration between Pavlis Honors College and the College of Business. Husky Innovate is a series of workshops, events, and resources supporting Michigan Tech’s innovators and entrepreneurs.

The next pitch event—the Bob Mark Business Model Competition—is slated for January 19, 2023. This legacy event celebrates entrepreneurship and pays tribute to the late COB professor of practice, Bob Mark. Contestants will pitch the key components of their business models, including value proposition, customer segment, and product market fit. Huskies are encouraged to register here

About the College of Business

The Michigan Tech College of Business offers undergraduate majors in accounting, business analytics, construction management, economics, engineering management, finance, management, management information systems, and marketing, as well as a general business option. Graduate degrees include the TechMBA®, a Master of Engineering Management, a Master of Science in Accounting, and a Master of Science in Applied Natural Resource Economics.