Category: Husky Innovate

Huskies win at the Michigan Collegiate Startup Challenge

Michigan Tech students participating in the Michigan Collegiate Startup Challenge pose for a photo
From left to right: Rourke Sylvain, Jordan Crave, Zane Smalley, and Asia Motta

On November 11, 2022, four huskies representing three teams pitched their business ideas at Michigan State University (MSU) during the Michigan Collegiate Startup Challenge (MCSC). MCSC is Michigan’s university-level business model competition specifically designed for student entrepreneurs across Michigan. MCSC fosters entrepreneurship by encouraging students to commercialize their ideas. The event provides a forum where students develop skills by pitching their ideas and building entrepreneurial ventures.

MCSC is hosted by MSU and sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). The pitch competition is a collaboration between Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Ferris State University, Kendall College of Art and Design, Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Mid-Michigan College, Northern Michigan University, and Wayne State University.

The 20 semifinalist teams participating in Friday’s event included the following Michigan Tech teams:

  • Jordan Craven, Tall and Small Designs
  • Anastasia Motta and Zane Smalley, The Droplet
  • Rourke Sylvain, Integrated Molecular Innovations

During the event, twenty college student teams representing nine schools from across Michigan participated in the Elevator Pitch Challenge & Showcase. During this two (2) hour timeframe, investors, community members, students, mentors, and a panel of judges networked with this year’s competing student teams. The judges then selected ten (10) student teams to move forward to the Grand Startup Challenge. The Grand Startup Challenge consisted of having the ten (10) finalist teams pitch their idea in five (5) minutes to a live audience and this year’s judging panel.

Congratulations go out to each of our huskies. And a special shout-out goes to Jordan Craven and Rourke Sylvain! Craven took first place, winning $5,000, and Sylvain took fourth place, winning $1,000. In addition, Asia Motta, first-place winner of the Husky Innovate Idea Pitch, and Zane Smalley represented Michigan Tech well during their pitch. We are excited for the future and look forward to the next steps on their innovation journey!

Student winners of the Michigan Collegiate Startup Challenge pose on stage with large checks
Winners of the Michigan Collegiate Startup Challenge featuring Michigan Tech participants Rourke Sylvain (Fourth Place, far left) and Jordan Craven (First Place, center)

Idea Pitch 2022: MTU Students Poised to Shape the World with Innovative Solutions


One hundred and twenty seconds. This is the amount of time students had to present their entrepreneurial ideas to judges at this year’s Ideas Pitch Competition. 

The event took place at 5 pm on Tuesday, October 4, at the Great Lakes Research Center.

Organized by Husky Innovate every fall semester as one of several activities to build the capacity of students to launch real-world startups.  This year’s event saw eight contestants whose ideas ranged from building college-friendly cabinets that do not require tools to assemble, to setting up food trucks for diverse communities in the Houghton area. 

After very interesting presentations, the first-place award with a $200 cash prize went to  Anastasia Motta whose idea, “The Droplet”, is going to help you save your house plants from dying. 

Husky Innovate Idea Pitch Competition certification presentation
Asia Motta (right) receiving the first place certificate and award from Jon Leinonen.

Cassandra Nash with a new idea of making college-friendly cabinets won the second-place award. She received a $100 cash prize. The third-place award with a $50 prize was taken by Alex Bos. Alex’s pitch is attempting to revolutionalize how college students can enjoy a couch even in limited spaces. 

In addition to judges, the audience was comprised of students, faculty members, and university staff.  The audience was given the opportunity to vote for their favorite pitch.  Noel Kamdem-Tegue, whose company, Black Earth Rising, pitched their food truck idea to serve African and Indian food with the idea that diverse communities can enjoy their home favorites.  Black Earth Rising was judged as the audience’s favorite. 

Other award categories included an honorable mention and a social impact award received by Ruby Alhajjar and Cethan Magnan respectively.

The event was supported by Pavlis Honors College.  Awards were sponsored by Dean Johnson, Dean of the College of Business, and Elham Asgari, Assistant Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship at the College of Business.

The judges for the night were Elham Asgari (COB); Erich Petushek (CLS), Mark Rudnicki (COFRES), Briana Tucker (Enterprise), Jason Mack, (MTEC SmartZone); and Rourke Sylvain (Biomed). The event was emceed by Bayle Golden, (COB).

The Idea Pitch Competition is the first of three pitch events that Husky Innovate hosts each year. The next pitch event is the Bob Mark Business Model Competition on January 19th, a legacy event that celebrates entrepreneurship and is a tribute to the late College of Business Professor of Practice Bob Mark. Contestants pitch the key components of their business models, including value proposition, customer segment, and product market fit. 

First Place: Anastasia Motta with The Droplet ($200)
Second Place: Cassandra Nash with College Friendly Cabinets ($100)
Third Place: Alex Bos with The SELF Couch ($50)
Honorable Mention: Ruby Alhajjar with Monitoring System for Microbial Influence ($25)
Audience Favorite: Noel Kamdem-Tegue with Black Earth Rising, a food truck ($25)
Social Impact Award: Cethan Magnan with School Swap ($100)

Written by: Eugene Brown Agyei for Husky Innovate

Husky Innovate Announces Fall 2022 Schedule of Events

Husky Innovate, a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College, the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, and the College of Business, has a goal to provide the tools and knowledge to cultivate Michigan Tech’s innovative, creative, and entrepreneurial spirit across all disciplines offered on campus. To accomplish that goal, Husky Innovate provides valuable innovation and entrepreneurial education programs to students, staff, and faculty at Michigan Tech and this fall’s schedule is no exception!

This semester we have an outstanding lineup of workshops and speakers – check out the schedule of events for fall 2022 below. For more information on our Husky Innovate events, please visit:  http://www.mtu.edu/husky-innovate

Husky Innovate Fall 2022 Calendar of Events
Husky Innovate Fall 2022 Calendar of Events

Looking for ways to get involved? Sign up for our mailing list and get information sent directly to your inbox about upcoming innovation workshops, speakers, or other ways to excel your career. 

Winners Announced: 2022 Bob Mark Business Model Pitch Competition

Social Impact Award Winner – Bayle Golden with STEMPOWER

Congratulations and thank you to Husky Innovate’s Bob Mark Business Model Pitch Competition contestants and winners! On January 27th, 16 Michigan Tech students, representing diverse majors, participated in the competition either virtually over Zoom or in-person, and pitched their business models to a panel of judges and to a live audience. Each contestant was provided 4 minutes to pitch key components of their business models, including the value proposition and customer segment.

A highlight of Michigan Tech’s Innovation Week, this legacy event celebrates entrepreneurship and is a tribute to the late College of Business Professor of Practice Bob Mark. There were three categories of prizes: business model, social impact, and breakout innovation. The business model category looked at how well the solution addresses the customers’ needs, the path to revenue, and the overall presentation. The social impact category examined the significance of the social problem and how well the solution addressed it. The breakout innovation award considered the solution’s novelty, ease of implementation, and time to implementation.  

Congrats to all the contestants who took a big step forward with their entrepreneurship goals when they pitched their business models. Special congratulations to our award winners:

Business Model Category 

Presented by College of Business, thank you to sponsors Rick and Jo Berquist, and Dan and Jane Green for sponsoring the Audience Favorite award.

  • First prize – Akhil Kurup with Sense ($2,000)
  • Second prize – Maggie Zimmermann  with Famealia ($1,000)
  • Third prize – Jakob Christiansen with ProBoard ($500)
  • Honorable Mention – Nick Peterson with NOMAD ($250) 
  • Audience Favorite – Maggie Zimmermann with Famealia ($250) 

Social Impact Award Category

Sponsored and presented by Dr. Elham Asgari, Gates Professor College of Business, with a $1,000 matching contribution from Arick Davis and Jake Northey of Creative Mines.

  • Bayle Golden with STEMPOWER ($2,000)

Breakout Innovation Award

Presented by Patrick Visser, Chief Commercial Officer, MTEC SmartZone, sponsored by the MTEC SmartZone and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

  • Akhil Kurup with Sense ($1,000)

Husky Innovate extends a special thanks to those who provided their time and resources to make the competition a success.

Our Sponsors

  • Dean Johnson, Dean, College of Business
  • Elham Asgari, Gates Professor, College of Business
  • Rick and Jo Berquist
  • Dan and Jane Green
  • Arick Davis and Jake Northey, Creative Mines
  • MTEC SmartZone and the MEDC

Our Judges 

  • Jim Baker, Associate VP Research Administration, Co-Director Husky Innovate 
  • Michelle Jarvie-Eggart, Assistant Professor Engineering Fundamentals
  • Eric Roberts, Executive Director 20Fathoms 
  • David Shull, Senior Director Skills Partnerships, Handshake
  • Elham Asgari, Gates Professor, College of Business
  • Dan Green, Entrepreneur, and Principal at BlackFin Group, MTU Alumnus
  • Arick Davis, Entrepreneur, Co-founder Last Mile Cafe, Creative Mines, MTU Alumnus 
Competition Judges

Our Emcee

Gary Tropp, Computer Network and System Administration, Pavlis Honors College Student, University Innovation Fellow, and Husky Innovate Pitch winner ‘18, ‘19.

Our Marketing Team

Vienna Leonarduzzi, Marketing and Communications Director, Pavlis Honors College, and Laura Vidal Chiesa, Michigan Tech Ph.D. Student, College of Sciences and Arts and Husky Innovate Intern.  

Our Production Team

Special thanks to Stefan Hurthibise and the Michigan Tech IT team, Sound and Lighting Services’ James Langsford, Elijah Nation, Luke Schloemp, and the rest of the team, and Photo Services provided by Alok Shelar of University Marketing and Communications, and Dining and Catering Services for their support. 

A special thank you to the Office of Advancement and Alumni Engagement for inviting all Bob Mark pitch contestants to watch the January 29th Michigan Tech Hockey game from the Presidential Skybox.

Thanks to all who attended! We look forward to next year’s event!