Business and Technology Merges in Husky Innovate Idea Pitch Competition

The first annual Husky Innovate Idea Pitch Competition took place Wednesday, Oct. 17 in Fisher Hall. The competition was hosted by the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College, the School of Business and Economics, and the Vice President for Research Office.

More than 30 students from various majors and disciplines pitched to a panel of judges comprised of faculty, alumni, and community members. Participants had two minutes to pitch their innovative and disruptive ideas. Alumni from Michigan Tech’s 14 Floors joined the judging panel to offer feedback and expert advice to budding Michigan Tech entrepreneurs.

Two students on stage after presenting in the Husky Innovate Idea Pitch Competition
Students in the School of Business and Economics participate in the Husky Innovate Idea Pitch Competition.

The winners of the 2018 Idea Pitch Competition are:

  • First Place and Audience Choice—Cameron Philo, Electrical Engineering, Pavlis Honors College, Life Pro Jackets
  • Second Place—Gary Tropp, Computer Network and System Administration, A Better Way to Schedule Classes
  •  Third Place—Mayank Bagaria, Mechanical Engineering, Wearable Translator
  • Honorable Mention—Sarah Smyth, Business, Post-op Bra for Breast Cancer Survivors
  • Honorable Mention—Christopher Codere and Joshua Hansen, MBA and Software Engineering, Firearm Detection Technology for Police Officers
  • Honorable Mention—Marina Brusso and Maxx Fredrickson, Marketing/Management and Management, Parking Improvement App

The Idea Pitch Competition is part of Husky Innovate, a series of workshops and competitions that guide students through key phases of business development while emphasizing strategies for success. More information on upcoming Husky Innovate events can be found at mtu.edu/husky-innovate.


Alumni Spotlight: Tim Spehar at Therma-Tron-X, Inc.

Last year during Career Fair, Tim Spehar ’17 was an engineering management student. This year, he’s back on campus—as an alumnus and recruiter for Therma-Tron-X, Inc. (TTX), a custom industrial finishing systems manufacturer with locations in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois.

Photo of alumni Tim Spehar at Career Fair
Student to recruiter is an eye-opening experience, Tim Spehar ’17, says

Tim serves as a project engineer, managing the design, fabrication, installation, and startup of equipment. “Our organization is flat, so I report to the VP of Engineering, the VP of Special Projects, and our CEO.” At any given time, TTX project engineers like Tim are in charge of 10 mechanical designers during the engineering phase, up to 20 fabricators who assemble subsystems, and 10 on-site installers who erect the system for customers.

Husky Work Ethic on the Job
Once the machine is assembled, Tim’s team travels to the client facility, working multiple rotations as field engineers to start-up and test the equipment, training the customer through the entire process before handing the keys over.

“A rotation is a two-week stint where we work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., or until we decide to leave,” Tim says. “Some nights have been midnight or later to troubleshoot and stay on schedule. We fly in on a Monday (with our own planes—super sweet perk!) and work through the weekend until the following Friday.”

The rigor doesn’t phase Tim.

 “The rotations are my favorite,” he says. “While we work very tough hours, it is the most rewarding part of the project process. We get to see what was once on paper, become a physical machine. It’s our baby—it’s really cool to see it through beginning to end.”

Back in the office, Tim works with every facet of the organization to see that the project progresses on time, working with the lead designer to manage the drawing release schedule; working with the shop manager to discuss workflow; and working with accounting, shipping, and purchasing, coordinating equipment deliveries to customers. “And through all of this, we interface directly with the customer, helping them get ready for their new paint line, working with chemical coaters to discuss system capabilities and limitations.”

For Tim, getting the job done well is the number one goal—but it hasn’t come easy.

Michigan Tech’s Business Degree Prepared Me
In fact, he admits it was challenging to size the equipment for his first machine project. “But now after three machines it feels like old hat,” Tim says. Having an engineering background and project management experience through Michigan Tech’s engineering management degree has paid off. “Working on a few special projects and standardization projects in-house, I have become one of our go-to foundry systems installers and hydraulics applications engineers.”

“Having opportunities to work with and teach others is so rewarding. Some days feel like day 0, where I’m learning or teaching myself something new to solve problems quickly and creatively, but other days I find myself being pulled in to assist others on the team because I can problem solve so effectively. I really enjoy what I do. It has become a rewarding passion.”


Mentoring Opportunity for Entrepreneurial-Minded Students

Michigan Tech campus in the fall.
The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College and the School of Business and Economics, announces a mentoring opportunity for students to meet with successful Michigan Tech alumni.

During Innovation Week (Oct. 15-18), Kanwal Rekhi ‘69, along with other 14 Floors members, have generously offered to meet one-on-one with entrepreneurial-minded Huskies. Students who have an innovative technology, solution, idea, and/or prototype that they would like to get in front of an experienced entrepreneur to talk market assessment and commercialization potential, should apply for the mentoring opportunity. Limited times are available.

This initiative is part of Michigan Tech’s 14 Floors. 14 Floors is a series of events and activities designed to build momentum and enable culture change on campus. Core initiatives focus on fostering entrepreneurship and high-tech innovation within a global culture and economy. Cross-disciplinary activities led by faculty and staff focus on students and are held on and off campus. The effort is made possible through alumni support.


Husky Innovate Workshops and Pitch Competitions

Multi Color Logo

The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship at Michigan Tech, a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College and the School of Business and Economics, announces a new series of workshops and events for students called Husky Innovate. Husky Innovate is a succession of workshops and competitions guiding students through key phases of innovation and business development, while emphasizing evidence-based strategies for success.

Students are encouraged to participate in any/all events of their choosing, whether they’re interested in learning more about entrepreneurship and innovation to distinguish their résumé, or they want to start their own business and build knowledge, expertise, and confidence through participation.

Students who challenge themselves to pitch their idea at a national, state, or regional competition will find the Husky Innovate track provides a foundation for achieving their goals. The workshops and events emphasize experiential learning and provide the opportunity to get valuable feedback from peers and mentors.

The Idea Pitch Competition will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17 in M&M U113. During the two-minute pitch competition, students will share their favorite innovative and disruptive idea in an interactive community setting. Cash prizes will be awarded. Students should register early; participation is limited to the first 30 registrants.

See more events and upcoming workshops at mtu.edu/husky-innovate.