KALAMAZOO—Two teams of Western Michigan University students took top honors in two categories and a third team also was recognized at the recent Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge, winning more than $10,000 in micro-grants for their innovative ideas.
WMU teams won the Most Disruptive Technology and Best App categories. Now in its fifth year, the competition is administered by the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship, with semifinalist and finalist judging held in February. The competition provides funding to dozens of student and faculty-led teams with innovative, renewable energy ideas. The challenge enables teams to go from idea to venture launch during a six-month program.
"Our students did an incredible job with this year's challenge," says Barcley Johnson, management instructor and advisor to the teams. "The competition level was even more challenging than last year, and our students rose to the top and were very competitive."
The students and their ideas
Students Nick Kossick of Troy, Mich., Chelsey Rhodes of Paw Paw, Mich., and Matt Rumora of Portage, Mich., won the Most Disruptive Technology category with their idea, PowerSlim. The group focused on changing power usage behavior through psychological, visual and sound cues delivered via an iPhone and iPad app.
In similar fashion, students Dan Gower of Pontiac, Mich., Jim Burns of White Pigeon, Mich., and Andrew Schutz of Howell, Mich., won for Best App with Reuse-e. The app solution tracks excess electronic equipment in academic and commercial settings with the ability to provide an application programming interface to give real-time salvage value and also provide end-of-life tracking to control liability issues.
Additional recognition went to WMU students Andrew Gabrielson of Girbraltar, Mich., and Moh'd Khair Riy Albattikhi, an international student from Jordan, who presented their project e-rescue, which centered on recovery of electronics that have been disposed of in Africa. Their project also qualified for a grant.
Students say they got a lot out of the competition.
"The Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge was a wonderful experience for my teammates and for me," Rhodes says. "We learned a lot about real world challenges of starting a business. We competed with top students and, though we did not come away with the overall team win, we definitely proved that WMU can compete with the best. I think we made Western proud."
The Haworth College of Business offers a curriculum in entrepreneurship at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The college also provides additional resources for students across the University who are interested in pursuing their entrepreneurial ideas, such as a monthly speaker series dedicated to entrepreneurs and a student entrepreneur club, as well as support to attend competitions.
"We are fortunate that the leadership teams at WMU and the Haworth College of Business have pledged support of our entrepreneurship curriculum and programming," says Johnson. "This commitment allows our students' talents to be supported and for them to make their ideas business realities."