Students Develop Entrepreneurial Ideas at Startup Weekend

Wednesday, December 04, 2019
Students presenting their entrepreneurial ideas at startup weekend

Eight student teams received critical feedback and encouragement about their entrepreneurial ideas while making presentations before a panel of Rose-Hulman alumni during this year’s Techstars Startup Weekend on campus.

There was no shortage of entrepreneurial ideas from teams of Rose-Hulman students that spent a weekend participating in the Techstars Startup Weekend late this fall.

Along the way, nearly 50 students experienced the pressure-packed startup culture, researched the viability of their entrepreneurial ideas, and got valuable feedback from entrepreneurs, investors, co-founders and potential sponsors who were once in their place.

“The future is bright for these students. They have some creative ideas and we want to continue to encourage them to expand on their ideas. You never know where it might lead them,” says Rose-Hulman Startup Weekend facilitator Roger Osorio, an executive coach with IBM and a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “At Rose-Hulman, these students have all of the resources to harvest the entrepreneurial spirit. And, they’re enthusiastic, innovative and really ambitious.”

Five students came together to develop Munch Control, a prospective company whose device would link a variety of sounds, lights, movements to keep animals from impeding and damaging residential landscapes and home gardens. There’s a potential to reach 2.4 million homeowners with a market that’s estimated at nearly $36.9 billion annually.

“We believe that the potential for our project is enormous as we just scratched the surface of project ideas over the course of one weekend. Just think what could happen once we really dive into this,” says Nathan Atkinson, a first-year engineering design student from Mountainview, Calif.

The Startup Weekend judges–three Rose-Hulman alumni entrepreneurs—agreed, presenting the team with first-place honors. Everyone associated with the event agreed that all eight participating teams had “winning” ideas. In fact, Osorio pointed out that many of the most successful enterprises aren’t Startup Weekend contest winners but are projects that continue to develop throughout the months and years following the event.

Other members of the Munch Control team were first-year students Jacob Graves, a computer science major from Lanesville, Ind.; Brenden Harris, a mechanical engineering student from Mount Juliet, Tenn.; Newt Ziegler, a biomedical engineering student from Sylvania, Ohio. Also contributed was Dylan Carroll, a junior from Indiana State University.

The Stay-Lit team came up with a creative idea to provide intermediate lighting to critical areas within hotels whenever primary light bulbs burn out or get damaged. In most cases, it takes several days before these bulbs are replaced, leaving these areas as potential safety risks. Earning second-place honors for this idea were first-year students John Chung, an engineering design major from Santa Clara, Calif.; Abigail Leul, an engineering design student from Minneapolis, Minn.; and Heinrich Maertens, a computer science student from Luzern, Switzerland. Another member was Haiden Smith, a sophomore electrical engineering major from Manhattan, Ill.

Developing a chemical-free way to treat outside garden and flower arrangements, without harming bees that are important to nature’s ecosystem, was the Bee Friendly team. Earning third place honors were first-year students Nevin Crow, a chemical engineering major from Lebanon, Tenn.; Luke Lighthart, an international computer science student from St. Louis; Megan Merz, a computer science student from Fort Wayne, Ind.; Ganesh Singh, a mechanical engineering major from New Delhi, India; and Michelle Wong, a mechanical engineering student from Dayton, Ohio.

Other concepts featured a culturally inclusive language learning experience, a voice-activated food ordering system for long-haul truckers and a software system to help verify the performance of employees participating in company-sponsored wellness programs.

Alumni entrepreneurs/venture capitalists serving as team mentors were Gary Bullock, chief technology officer (CTO) with Pierce Aerospace; Tanya Colonna, founder/CEO with BlackTop Labs BV; Chrissy Meyer, partner with Root Ventures; and Hobey Tam, CTO with BlackTop Labs BV. Another mentor will be John Leschorn, co-founder/chief operating officer with Lucd.

The judging panel featured Rose-Hulman alumni Virginie Adams, senior technical program manager with Salesforce and founding member of Kolbus and Adams Holdings LLC; Nick Birch, co-founder with PropelUp and a 2019-20 Mitch Daniels Leadership Fellow; and Wes Bolsen, president and chief executive officer (CEO) with Colorado-based LaderaTech.

Rose-Hulman’s Startup Weekend was organized by Techstars, the Rose Innovative Student Entrepreneurs (RISE) organization and the ESCALATE program, a learning community at Rose-Hulman that’s focused on integrating entrepreneurship and technical disciplines.