Ingenious invention gives plant lovers a green thumb and wins Bronco Pitch

Contact: Amy Coughenour

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Creating a solution to the frequent and frustrating task of watering plants, a team of Western Michigan University students won the Bronco Pitch Competition with their ingenious invention called the SELPE. The SELPE, brainchild of three engineering students, is an atmospheric water generator that helps nature lovers enjoy the benefits of beautiful plants without the headache of daily watering.

The Bronco Pitch Competition, held at Western Michigan University’s Haworth College of Business, provides a stage for Western students who are aspiring entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas to hypothetical investors. Besides the $6,500 in prize money up for grabs, teams who participate benefit from the experience of pitching their ideas, answering questions about their businesses and receiving valuable feedback from judges.

Team SELPE (left to rright): Tatenda Zindoga, Kate Mih and Agnes Nyanamba

The winning team for 2023 was made up of three engineering students—Kate Mih of Portage, Michigan, Agnes Nyanamba of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Tatenda Zindoga of Harare, Zimbabwe. Mih’s passionate pitch, as well as the novel product idea, made an impact on the judges, leading to the team’s first-place win and $3,000 prize.

The SELPE takes moisture from the air and converts it directly into water with the use of cooling coils and solar power. It is a fully autonomous, self-sustaining product that is placed into the ground and uses a rubber tubing system to feed small plant bed root systems.

Zindoga explains that the product idea came about after the three team members took the Entrepreneurial Engineering I: Cost and Financial Analysis course together

“We had three different ideas so we compared our ideas and did an elimination process, looking at what was feasible and also unique. We wanted to go bold and do something that pushed us out of our comfort zones. That is how SELPE was born,” he says.

The process of preparing for the competition was extremely helpful to the group. Mih, who delivered an engaging and winning pitch says, “A lot of our focus for the pitch went toward getting the audience involved and working on body language. I practiced in front of individuals, groups and professionals and learned so much through the process.”

Looking to the future, Zindoga hopes to use the prize money to explore a patent for the SELPE. He would encourage anyone with a business idea to take the chance and go for it saying, “If you have an idea, do your research well then take a risk. You only live once, so make the most of it!”


Cash prizes totaling $6,500 were awarded to the top four teams at the end of the competition. The first-place finish by the SELPE earned the team $3,000 to invest in their company. Teams in second through fourth place were:

  • Second place and $2,000 went to MoCro, including Tessa Muday of Richland, Michigan, Abbie Meredith of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Sam Ryzewicz of Edison, New Jersey. MoCro is an adaptive crochet tool that allows users to crochet one handed, enabling people with mobility impairments to enjoy the art of crocheting. It serves to reduce strain on the hands and arms with an easy-to-use tension system.
  • Third place and $1,000 went to Revision Autonomy, a company founded and run by Bryan Hagenbarth of Portage, Michigan. Revision Autonomy is a camera-agnostic software that can be incorporated into vehicles to improve driver awareness to make driving in inclement weather safer.
  • Fourth place and $500 went to Legant Theaters, a network and franchise system for the theater industry created by Keoni Cabatingan of Holly, Michigan. The goal of Legant Theaters is to provide both franchisees and performers with additional resources to increase their reach and profitability.


The Bronco Pitch competition, in its ninth year, provides WMU students a platform to present their business ideas. The competition offers two divisions, one for high school students and one for college students. During the one-day event, each team gives a three-minute pitch to a panel of judges, with winners moving on to the finals. Judges are sourced from WMU Haworth, the local entrepreneur community and investors.

In the high school division, teams of ninth- through 12th-grade-students also have the chance to submit an idea and be judged by a panel.

Lara Hobson, instructor of management and organizer of this year’s competition, says, “Our annual Bronco Pitch competition gives our WMU student entrepreneurs, as well as local high school student entrepreneurs, the opportunity to pitch their business idea for valuable feedback and prize money. We hope that the event inspires the students to take their innovative ideas even further.”

This year’s competition also featured a keynote address by WMU Haworth alum Zach Novoselsky, B.B.A.’18, MBA’19, founder, BuzzU and Novoselsky Media. Novoselsky then joined fellow alumni and entrepreneurs, Sydney Davis, B.S.’14, founder, NixCode, and David Stone, B.B.A.’90, co-founder and president, Trion Solutions, Inc., as judges for the final round of competition.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.