Two teams of Michigan Tech students won more than $20,000 in the annual New Venture Competition held at Central Michigan University recently.
Northern Aquaponics won $10,000 in the Best Technology category, and Upland Nanotech won $10,000 for Highest Growth Potential and $500 for second-place pitch.
“We had five strong teams competing in a field of 2Y,” said School of Business and Economics Dean Gene Klippel. “All the teams benefited greatly from the experience of presenting their ideas and receiving valuable feedback from the outstanding panel of judges who participated.”
First place and $30,000 went to Solar Cycle Lights LLC, a student team from Central Michigan.
Upland Nanotech was founded by Thomas Daunais, an electrical engineering major, whose company developed a rapid-sensing technology used for food pathogen detection and drug-level concentration that has the ability to yield results within 20 minutes.
“The first thing we’re going to do is going to take the winnings and leverage another $55,000 out of it,” he said. “We’ll use the $65,000 we’ll have to make an E. coli sensor prototype.”
He said the competition, attended by many business and industry professionals, helped his group network and convince others to believe in their idea.
“We got feedback from the judges that we have an interesting concept, a solid business plan and an overall very intriguing technology,” Daunais said.
Northern Aquaponics, specializing in growing plants and raising fish in indoor environments, won the $10,000 award for Best Technology.
“I think we have done a lot of work to pinpoint our target market and refine our business model to make it more viable,” said Josh Krugh, an economics major and the company’s cofounder. He also thought the judges at Central gave good feedback, not just to his team, but to all of the teams.
“There were so many people there willing and able to help all of us,” Krugh said. “I can’t tell you how many people stopped me throughout the day to give us suggestions and talk about our business. It was definitely a rare opportunity to be in a room full of so many successful businessmen and women.”
He said Northern Aquaponics will use their prize money to build partnerships and company business models.
Twenty-seven teams from Central Michigan and Michigan Tech competed in the daylong event for awards ranging from $500 to $30,000. Panels of 60 judges representing business leaders and entrepreneurs from throughout Michigan and the region evaluated the team presentations based on several factors, including the quality of the idea, strength of the management team and the business plan.
Upland Nanotech and Northern Aquaponics also won second and third place, respectively, at the Fourth Annual Bob Mark Memorial Elevator Pitch Competition on the Michigan Tech campus in November 2012.
Leave it to students from Michigan Technological University to up the ante on an already exciting race. Two teams of students are lending their talents to the CopperDog 150 Sled Dog Race in the Keweenaw this weekend.
One team will focus on real-time statistics; the other will help provide near-live video streaming via YouTube.
It’s all part of a team dynamics/problem solving course in the School of Business and Economics, taught by Michele Loughead.
“The goal is for students to learn how to create and operate in highly effective teams,” Loughead, an instructor, says. “I teach the tools, but more importantly, we focus on the relationship between each team member,”
It seems to be working. Ben Christensen, a third-year computer network and system administration major from Howell, is spearheading the number crunchers.
“We’ve set up a system that takes the raw data and automatically does all of the calculations and posts it without user intervention,” he says. “All that a person needs to do is put in the raw check-in times from the radio operators.”
He’s especially excited about a new feature: forecasting arrival times at checkpoints.
“We’ll be keeping live stats on the mushers’ average speed and lead times, and posting them all on the leader board,” he says, showing his team’s handiwork on his laptop.
Using last year’s results, they’ve created an interface that will show all the mushers and their times between checkpoints. Rolling over the display reveals their locations.
“And we’ve only been at it for four weeks,” he says. “We looked at other races, like the UP 200 in Marquette, and other sports. Horse racing has some similarities.”
The difference here, he says, is the staggered start of the teams, complicating matters a bit.
“We also called and emailed some of the mushers to see what they would like us to include.”
Radio operators around the course will report the teams’ progress through the checkpoints to a central recording location in Calumet. There, Christensen and his team will crunch the numbers and post them on a high-speed Internet-based spreadsheet for the world to see.
“We had to answer some questions to proceed: what stats to collect, what formulas and calculations to use, how to present it and how to design for the user experience,” Christensen says.
And that includes a smart-device version, half the size of the original, for phones and other smaller screens.
Is it live? Almost.
Nikoli Wiens is leading the team capturing the race on video. The complications are many; but the payoff will be great, the accounting student says.
“We will have access to the dedicated high-speed Internet connection, so that will be huge,” the accounting major from Duluth says. “We’ll be doing video around the starting point, but we want to get out to the checkpoints, too.”
Therein lies the bigger problem: how to get the high-definition video shot out in the woods and brought back to Calumet for uploading in an efficient manner.
“We plan on editing while we’re getting driven back,” he says. “We also need to figure out what to put in, what will be relevant to people. We have to be as prepared as possible beforehand because we know it will be crazy that weekend.”
Teamwork will help, he says. They’ve known each other for a while and work well together.
“There’s so much stuff that needs to be done, he says, “and this is real-world experience, especially under these time constraints.”
Their ultimate goal, driven by Todd Brassard, executive race director, is to “recreate the atmosphere of the event,” Wiens says.
“We want to talk to spectators, too, as well as the mushers,” he says. “We know getting all this online will be a challenge, but it will also be a lot of fun.
And he’s looking down the trail.
“I won’t be able to see the race as much this year, but in the future, after we have a system down and students build it better, smarter and faster when I’m not here, I can come back some day and enjoy the race.”
Brassard is more than happy for the help.
“It makes a lot of sense for us to leverage the brains and work ethics of Michigan Tech students to develop and grow the event,” he says. “With the help of the two teams from the Business School, we are bringing the information we output to the world to a whole new level, with real-time standings and human interest video updates during the event.”
“With only four weeks from concept to execution, if we succeed, it’s going to be amazing,” he adds.
The School of Business and Economics extends a warm welcome to our new faculty for the 2012-2013 academic year.
Michele Loughead, MBA
Michele Loughead accepts a position as lecturer in the School of Business and Economics. Loughead has been an instructor at Michigan Tech since 2011.
Loughead received her MBA from Seattle University and her BBA from the University of Michigan. She is also a certified public accountant.
Loughead is an innovation consultant at Michele Loughead Consulting and served as the vice president of trading at Imperium Renewables, Inc. for two years. She has also been director of finance at VMC Consulting and Black Ram Engineering.
Russell Louks, MS
Russell Louks joins the School of Business and Economics as professor of practice. Louks comes to Michigan Tech from the Ford Motor Company, where he serves as manager of the University Sourcing Office in Houghton.
Louks received an MS in Technology from Purdue University and a BS in Mathematics with a secondary education certificate from Michigan Tech. He is also a certified information systems security professional.
He has worked for Ford Motor Company since 1985 as a plant floor systems manager, the Mazda business integration liaison and the supervisor of the manufacturing systems office. He was also a reliability engineer at General Dynamics for two years.
Tang Wang, PhD
Tang Wang joins the School of Business and Economics as an assistant professor. He comes to Michigan Tech from the University of Missouri, Kansas City.
Wang holds a PhD in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the University of Missouri, Kansas City, an MS in Pattern Recognition Intelligent System from the University of Science and Technology of China and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
He has taught entrepreneurship, strategy and innovation management and has published in journals such as the Journal of Business Venturing and the Journal of Product Innovation Management. His research interests include technology and innovation, venture capital and initial public offering, and organizational learning, capability and knowledge.