Cameron Philo Wins Best Technology and $10,000 at CMU New Venture Competition

Apurva Baruah pitching at CMU New Venture for Yooper Ag.

Five student teams from Michigan Technological University traveled to Central Michigan University (CMU) in Mount Pleasant, MI to compete in the ninth annual New Venture Competition held Friday, April 12. Student teams from Michigan Tech and CMU presented business plans and pitches to panels of experienced entrepreneurs. The Michigan Tech students that competed in the 2019 CMU New Venture Competition were:

  • Mayank Bagaria for Vakya
  • Apurva Baruah for Yooper Ag
  • Ahammad Basha Dudekula for AGTO Autonomous
  • Cameron Philo for Life Pro Jackets
  • Karuna Rana and Sid Premchandani for Reality Check
Cameron Philo pitching at CMU New Venture for Life Pro Jackets.

Michigan Tech students Cameron Philo and Mayank Bagaria advanced to the semifinals last Friday. Cameron Philo won Best Technology and was awarded $10,000. Philo participated in Michigan Tech’s I-Corps Site Program last Fall. I-Corps is a team-based program structure that was developed through a partnership between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. The workshop provides an introduction to the Lean Start-up business development methodology, which focuses on getting out of the lab and using the tools of customer discovery and the business model canvas to evaluate the commercial potential of innovative technologies.

Mayank Bagaria pitching at CMU New Venture for Vakya.

This is the ninth year of the New Venture competition and the eighth year of Michigan Tech’s partnership with CMU. Last year, four out of Michigan Tech’s six participants took home cash and in-kind awards.

Cameron Philo wins Best Technology and $10,000.

Michigan Tech’s Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship (ICE), a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College and the School of Business and Economics, continues to be an excellent resource for students looking to start their own business or bring new ideas and concepts to the next stage of development. Husky Innovate was introduced this academic year by ICE as a succession of workshops and events that build on each other leading up to the CMU New Venture Competition. The intention is to guide students through key phases of innovation or business development while emphasizing evidence based strategies for success. Many of the students that competed in this year’s New Venture Competition also participated in various Husky Innovate events and workshops throughout the academic year. Students interested in innovating, developing, and implementing their ideas and inventions are encouraged to visit the Pavlis Honors College (M&M 722) to learn more about ICE and the resources available to them.


Husky Innovate Speaker Series Event on April 26th

The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship will host its second Husky Innovate Speaker Series on Friday, April 26, from 12-1 PM in the Pavlis Honors College Collaboration Space (M&M 722). Faculty, students, and staff are invited to join us for a talk given by Michigan Tech’s Dr. Brad King. King is the Ron and Elaine Starr Professor in Space Systems in the department of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. He also serves as the faculty advisor for Aerospace Enterprise, is Director of the Space Systems Research Group, and the CEO of Orbion Space Technology.

King will discuss the “small satellite revolution”, Orbion’s value proposition of affordable, reliable electric propulsion for your small satellite mission, how his team approaches innovation, and how advances in technology such as Orbion’s have disrupted the space industry.

If you are an innovator or entrepreneur working on an idea with the goal of launching your own business, you are highly encouraged to attend. Registration is required, and attendance will be capped at 30. Lunch will be provided to the first 30 people to register. Please register no later than Tuesday, April 23rd.

The Husky Innovate Speaker Series is hosted by the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship which is a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College, the School of Business and Economics, and the Vice President for Research Office.


DTX Launch Detroit Deadline is April 4

Michigan Tech students from Detroit and the surrounding area have a unique summertime opportunity through incubator and accelerator, TechTown Detroit. TechTown, a partner of the Detroit Technology Exchange (DTX), connects entrepreneurs to resources, as well as learning and networking events in Detroit.

DTX Launch Detroit is a ten-week paid entrepreneurship program for college students and recent graduates who want to start their own business with an innovative idea. The program runs from May 21 to August 8.

Students can expand their entrepreneurship tool box, develop their resume, complete the groundwork for launching their own innovative idea, and receive a stipend in the process!

Participants will receive $2,500 upon completing the program (up to $7,500 per team).

The deadline to apply is April 4th. More information about DTX Launch Detroit and how to apply can be found here.


Congratulations to the 2019 Rekhi Innovation Challenge Winners

The 2019 Rekhi Innovation Challenge ended Thursday, February 28. This year there were seven teams competing. The Rekhi Challenge is a crowdfunding competition to help promote and support student innovation and entrepreneurship through Michigan Tech’s crowdfunding site, Superior Ideas. A total of $3,035 was raised between the projects. Congratulations to the Automated Beach Safety Flag project for raising the most at $2,245. This project team will receive a matching gift of $1,000.
Below are the results in the other prize categories:
Most Unique Visitors – 1st Place Wins $50 For Their Project
1st place – Audio to Visual Translator
2nd place – Automated Beach Safety Flag
3rd place – LifePro Jackets
Most Unique Funders – 1st Place Wins $50 For Their Project
1st place – Audio to Visual Translator
2nd place – Automated Beach Safety Flag
3rd place – LifePro Jackets
Social Media Engagement – 1st Place Wins $50 For Their Project
1st place – Automated Beach Safety Flag
2nd place – Audio to Visual Translator
3rd – LifePro Jackets
Most Creative Marketing Communications Strategy – 1st Place Wins $50 For Their Project
1st place – Automated Beach Safety Flag
The Audio to Visual project won a total of $100 in prize money and the Automated Beach Safety Flag project won a total of $1,150. Thank you to all of the donors that contributed to these projects. Your support for student innovation and entrepreneurship at Michigan Tech is greatly appreciated.
Superior Ideas was established in 2012 to help bring University research and public service projects to life. The site uses crowdfunding to raise money and awareness for University research and public service projects that may not qualify for grant funding.
The Rekhi Innovation Challenge was hosted by the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship and developed with support from Michigan Tech alumnus and longtime donor Kanwal Rekhi. The Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Michigan Tech in 1969. The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship is a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College and the School of Business and Economics.

Meet Tessa Steenwinkel…

By Amy Karagiannakis

Within one year of undergraduate research at Michigan Tech, Tessa Steenwinkel went from assisting in Dr. Thomas Werner’s genetics lab to co-authoring his book. Tessa started at Michigan Tech in the fall of 2017. She is majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology-Biological Sciences with a minor in Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Originally from the Netherlands, Tessa has lived in the United States since she was 12 years old. Growing up with a brother who has Down Syndrome drew Tessa to science at a very young age. Her desire to explain to her peers why and how her brother was different led to a later interest in fertility and early development.

She met Dr. Werner as a high school student visiting Tech during Preview Day weekend. He opened up his genetics lab for tours, and Tessa knew then that she wanted to be a part of his research team. She followed up the campus visit with an email to Dr. Werner requesting a copy of his book and inquired as to if there was possibly an opening on his research team for the 2017-18 academic year. Tessa has been part of Dr. Werner’s research team since her first day on campus as a husky.

She started in the fall of 2017 washing lab equipment, quickly transitioned to a research assistant, and then laboratory manager. Biologists use fruit flies to study wing spots, metabolism, and aging. This is important because the same genes and major metabolic pathways in fruit flies affect cancer and other diseases in humans. Dr. Werner’s book, Drosophilids of the Midwest and Northeast, is a field guide to the drosophilid species of fruit flies in the region that provides some insight into their biology and importance. His intention was to introduce researchers, teachers, and young students to these amazing flies and the diversity of their potential use in research. That’s where Tessa’s contribution to the book comes in.

From left to right: Thomas Werner, Tessa Steenwinkel, and John Jaenike

The second version of Werner’s book was published in 2018 with an interesting new chapter. Tessa wrote a children’s bedtime story about fruit flies that is now included at the end of the book. Now, rather than just being a scientific field guide, Drosophilids of the Midwest and Northeast includes a significant outreach component that hopefully speaks to young children and gets them excited about science and nature. The book and a beautiful poster can be downloaded for free here.

Tessa became the first recipient of the Soyring Foundation Scholarship last Spring. John Soyring, Tech alumnus and Pavlis Honors College External Advisory Board member, established the new scholarship through a generous gift that awards one deserving student $1000 each year. The scholarship is available exclusively to Pavlis Honors students expressing interest in research and innovation related to water quality management, renewable energy, or solutions to prevent and cure cancer. Tessa was awarded the scholarship this past fall semester for her research in Dr. Werner’s lab.

Tessa is a Pavlis Honors student in the Research Scholars pathway. Last summer, Tessa completed her immersion experience here at Tech on a research project that focused on the evolution of color patterns in animals. Researchers study this because the genes that control the pigmentation are also some of the key players in cancer growth. The focus of Tessa’s research this past summer was to perform transgenics, where they inserted pieces of foreign DNA into fruit fly embryos in order to control those genes. This would give them real causative evidence that these genes play a role in pigmentation in fruit flies.

This past fall, Tessa became the first undergrad in Dr. Werner’s lab to start her own research. She was given the autonomy to develop and set up the project for this academic year herself. Over the last few decades, we have seen a dramatic increase in diseases such as obesity and diabetes, which have long been linked to misregulation of what is known as the metabolic mTOR pathway. Currently, Tessa is looking at four diverse fruit fly species all with their own feeding patterns and preferences and the effect of different types of nutrition on their fecundity (number of offspring) and life expectancy.

When Tessa is not hard at work in Dr. Werner’s genetics lab, you can probably find her at Mont Ripley teaching local elementary school kids to ski, or in her dorm with a book or a knitting project and some tea. Tessa also enjoys playing tennis with the Michigan Tech Tennis Club and going on walks along the Portage.


Husky Innovate Speaker Series Begins March 1

The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship will be hosting the first of the Husky Innovate Speaker Series on Friday, March 1 at 12pm in the Pavlis Honors College Collaboration Space (M&M 722). Faculty, students, and staff are invited to join us for a talk given by Michigan Tech’s Andrew Barnard. Barnard is an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics and faculty advisor for SENSE Enterprise.

Barnard is using lean business model development and customer discovery to start his own business, NanoSound. NanoSound focuses on the elimination of noise from pipe and duct systems, like automotive exhausts and heating and ventilation pipes. Barnard will provide an example of an early business pitch and provide insights into the customer discovery process and business model development that has led to significant pivots in the start-up’s trajectory.

If you are an innovator or entrepreneur working on an idea with the goal of launching your own business, you are highly encouraged to attend. Registration is required, and attendance will be capped at 30. Lunch will be provided to the first 30 people to register. Please register no later than Monday, February 26. If you have any questions, please contact Lisa Casper (lcasper@mtu.edu).

The Husky Innovate Speaker Series is hosted by the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship which is a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College and the School of Business and Economics.


Spend Your Spring Break in Silicon Valley


Aspiring student entrepreneurs and innovators are invited to apply for the Michigan Technological University Silicon Valley Experience, a Spring Break tour of California Bay Area companies that includes meetings with entrepreneurs and Michigan Tech alumni who are leaders in their field. The deadline to apply is February 8th, 2019, and the application form can be found at SVE Experience 2019 Application. Up to fifteen students will be selected for this experience. Major funding for the trip is provided by Michigan Tech alum Kanwal Rekhi, as well as the Pavlis Honors College Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship and the School of Business and Economics in collaboration with 14 Floors.

Silicon Valley is known for its software giants, high-tech startups, Fortune 1000 companies, innovative culture and entrepreneurial ecosystem – the environment that affects local/regional entrepreneurship, such as culture, policies, talent, entrepreneurial organizations, regional resources, and networks.

The Silicon Valley Experience will showcase multiple perspectives of a day in the life of successful entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and business leaders. This tour will provide an interactive opportunity for students to discover more about a variety of industry settings, to sample various innovative corporate cultures through tours and presentations, and to meet and talk with successful alumni entrepreneurs.  

Students who apply and are accepted will have the opportunity to:

  • Tour companies like Google, Netflix, Hewlett Packard, Facebook, Ford, Clari, BYTON, Twilio, Autodesk, Waymo, the Porter Vineyard, as well as recent Michigan Tech alumnus startup, Handshake
  • Meet with entrepreneurs and innovators
  • Talk with Michigan Tech alumni who are leaders in their field
  • Get answers to your real-world business, innovation, and leadership questions
  • Gain firsthand knowledge of the enterprises that are revolutionizing global business

Lodging, some food, and ground transportation to and from toured companies will be covered. Students will be responsible for arranging and paying for their own air travel. As part of the student application, students will create a 2-minute video describing how they will share their experience with the Michigan Technological University community upon completion of their travel in order to positively contribute to our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Students may apply for a limited travel scholarship to help cover the cost of air travel. If you have any questions, please contact Lisa Casper (lcasper@mtu.edu). 


Congratulations to the Bob Mark Business Model Competition Winners

By Amy Karagiannakis

Pavlis Honors student, Deanna Springgay, presenting her business model for Little Trainer.
Pavlis Honors student, Deanna Springgay, presenting her business model for Little Trainer.

The 2018 Bob Mark Business Model Competition took place Wednesday, December 5 in the Opie Library. The Competition was hosted by the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, a collaboration between Pavlis Honors College, School of Business and Economics, and Vice President for Research Office.

Lavanya Ajexh Kumar presenting on her web-based stress management program, AlzWell
Lavanya Ajexh Kumar presenting on her web-based stress management program, AlzWell

There were more than 20 participants that made up 15 teams from various majors and disciplines who pitched to a panel of judges comprised of President Koubek, faculty, and community members. Ideas ranged from hypothermia preventing life jackets to a web-based stress management program. Participants had five minutes to pitch their ideas and present their business model. The judging panel then had time following the presentation to ask questions and provide valuable feedback to our young entrepreneurs.

Pavlis Honors student, Gary Tropp accepts the First Place award from Dean Johnson. Tropp also won the MTEC SmartZone Game Changer award.
Pavlis Honors student, Gary Tropp accepts the First Place award from Dean Johnson. Tropp also won the MTEC SmartZone Game Changer award.

The winners of the 2018 Bob Mark Business Model Competition were:

  • First Place and MTEC SmartZone Game Changer Award – Gary Tropp (Computer Network & System Administration) for VARS (Virtual Advising Registering and Scheduling)
  • Second and Third Place – Tie between Mayank Bagaria (Mechanical Engineering) for Vakya and Karuna Rana (Environmental and Energy Policy) for Reality Check
  • Audience Favorite – Nate LaJoie (Finance) and Michael Betz (Management) for Backpack Keg
  • Honorable Mention – Deanna Springgay (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) for Little Trainer
  • Honorable Mention – Russ Crofton (Mechanical Engineering Technology) for Moonlight Cycles

Congratulations to all of our winners and participants, and thank you to our panel of distinguished judges for donating their time and expertise. The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship would also like to thank MTEC SmartZone and Arroyo Networks for their support and prize contributions. Photos from the event can be viewed and downloaded here.

Karuna Rana presenting Reality Check, an app to verify product sustainability.
Karuna Rana presenting Reality Check, an app to verify product sustainability. Rana tied for second and third place.

The Bob Mark 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 Spring Husky Innovate events can be found at mtu.edu/husky-innovate.


Science Fair Mentoring Program

Volunteer for the Science Fair Mentoring Program held at Houghton Elementary School during the Spring 2019 semester. As a volunteer in this program you will:

  • Serve as a one-on-one mentor to a 4th grade student and guide them through the process of creating their science fair project
  • Be part of a team of volunteers and be provided with all of the necessary resources and training you will need
  • Have additional opportunities to conduct experiments and demos with 4th grade classes

This program will run from early February to mid-March and will involve an approximately 2 hour per week commitment for the duration of the program. This is a great volunteer opportunity for anyone interested in:

  • Pursuing graduate school in any discipline
  • Improving your science communication skills and sharing your enthusiasm for STEM
  • Inspiring young students
  • Fulfilling your Leadership/Mentorship component

If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out this form by December 14th.

If you have any questions or would like additional information contact Elise Cheney-Makens at eacheney@mtu.edu.


Bob Mark Business Model Competition is December 5

The Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship is hosting the 2018 Bob Mark Business Model Competition on Wednesday, December 5 from 7-9 p.m. in the Opie Library. Students can apply to compete here.

The 2018 Bob Mark competition includes an idea pitch and a business model description. This event takes place later in the year so that contestants will have had the opportunity to develop their business model through participation in Husky Innovate workshops. Using Lean Launchpad methods and the Business Model Canvas, students will share insights from customer interviews that inform their business model.

Prizes will be awarded to the most scalable and actionable business model pitches. Using prize money, students have a chance to take their entrepreneurial idea to the next stage of development further preparing them for additional opportunities such as competing at the New Venture Competition held this April at Central Michigan University.

President Koubek will serve as a distinguished judge alongside other entrepreneurially minded faculty, staff, and community members.

Prizes for the Bob Mark Business Model Competition include:

First Prize – $2,000 + $100 services from MTEC SmartZone

Second Prize – $1,000 + $100 services from MTEC SmartZone

Third Prize – $500 + $100 services from MTEC SmartZone

Honorable Mention (2 prizes) – $250 each

Audience Favorite – $250

MTEC SmartZone prize – $1000

This event is a tribute to the late Bob Mark, professor of practice in the School of Business and Economics. Mark founded the Elevator Pitch Competition and brought the Business Plan Competition to Michigan Tech. The Bob Mark Elevator Pitch Competition and other efforts support his entrepreneurial spirit and that continues to live on in students, faculty, and staff.

Students who participated in the Idea Pitch Competition on October 17 are strongly encouraged to apply to compete in the Bob Mark Business Model Competition. Students should apply by submitting this form no later than midnight on Wednesday, November 21st (before Thanksgiving break). The top 15 applicants will be selected to participate in the Bob Mark Business Model Competition. Students who upload a business model canvas to their application will be given priority consideration. Student guidelines, scoring criteria, and a blank Business Model Canvas can be found at mtu.edu/honors/ice/husky-innovate.

Erica Austin and Kyle Schuhknecht presenting their idea, Mr. Green Tips, an eco-friendly informational application at the Idea Pitch Competition in October.

The 2018 Bob Mark Business Model Competition is part of Husky Innovate, a series of workshops and events that build on each other with the intention of guiding students through key phases of innovation or business development while emphasizing evidence-based strategies for success. Bob Mark Business Model Competition is hosted by the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, which is a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College, the School of Business and Economics, and the Vice President for Research Office.