Ian Tempelmeyer, a graduate student in biological systems engineering, won first place in the Engineering Pitch Competition (EPC) on March 23 and a $3,000 prize for his pitch about AutoPlanter, a robotic system with a planter attachment, that can supplement nitrogen contributions for corn farmers.
The Engineering Pitch Competition (EPC) was co-hosted by the College of Engineering and NUtech Ventures, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's commercialization affiliate.
"The Engineering Pitch Competition is a unique experience that encourages engineering students to think like an entrepreneur and move beyond the optimization of a technology for performance," said Eric Markvicka, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering, who co-hosted the competition with NUtech Ventures. "It helps students think about important commercialization aspects."
Tempelmeyer said he was forced to do deeper thinking about his product in order to participate in the EPC.
"The competition forced me to explore market need for a product, which is not something I had previously considered," Tempelmeyer said. "This is beneficial to engineers looking to become well-rounded. It is important to understand that you can design something incredibly intricate, with a special purpose. But sometimes you need to step back and see if there is a need for it."
Undergraduate and graduate student teams showcased their ability to identify an important problem, formulate a value proposition, estimate market size and describe their business model. In addition to the top prize, awards included $1,500 for second and $1,000 for third.
Matthew Penne, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student, won second place with a pitch for Transverse Direct Drive, a magnetic gear box used in wind energy.
The UNL Maker Group won third place, led by Isaac Regier, an undergraduate student in mechanical engineering and Brendan Colford, an undergraduate student in architecture. Their pitch featured a renter-friendly modular lighting system.
The competition was judged by John Wirtz, co-founder and chief product officer at Hudl; Ken Moreano, executive director at Scott Technology Center; and Scott Henderson, managing director at NMotion. Event co-hosts included NUtech Ventures, the College of Engineering and the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska.
The pitch competition also aligns with the university's N-2025 strategic plan, which emphasizes innovative student experiences in entrepreneurship. This goal is similarly shared by the College of Engineering and NUtech Ventures
"We're excited to work with students who are interested in further developing their ideas for a startup business," said Zane Gernhart, an event co-host and senior technology manager at NUtech Ventures. "These are the first steps in producing products and services that have a positive impact on society."
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