The Berthiaume Center was proud to host the kickoff event for this year’s Innovation Challenge, where students from Geography, Chemistry, Management, and Mechanical Engineering took home prizes. This Minute Pitch Competition boasted a greater variety of disciplines represented, an increase in number of graduate student participants, and greater quality of ideas than we have seen in the past. Over 60 teams from across campus submitted applications to compete in the event and 31 were selected to present their ideas to an audience of approximately 150 and a panel of 5 judges.
This year’s Minute Pitch winner took home $1,000 for his venture called Maine Carbon Solutions (MCS). Winner Peter Huntington, a Masters student in Geography, is working on a platform for corporations to buy carbon credits through his company that will produce biochar. MCS converts organic wastes from the forest products industry into biochar, a stable form of carbon that adds value to agricultural soils. Each pound of biochar produced is equivalent to sequestering, or storing, three pounds of carbon dioxide. MCS sells this carbon sequestration service on regional and international carbon markets. Expanding production of biochar translates into tangible gains in climate change mitigation and regeneration of climate-adapted, resilient landscapes.
Second place and $750 was awarded to Uma Sridhar, a PhD candidate in Chemistry. Uma and her team called Biosina have developed a coating from natural, non-toxic polymers for beverage cans. The epoxy resin that is currently used contains BPAs, a known toxic chemical, which puts beverage companies (for good reason) under scrutiny for health issues.
Third place and $500 was awarded to Isenberg alumna, Julia Song, and her partner Gabrielle Rochino, an undergraduate student in Mechanical Engineering. Their team has been developing engineering kits for girls age 6-12 that introduce them to STEM topics in a fun and engaging way. Julia, one of the venture’s Co-Founders, spoke in her pitch about how women engineers that she idolizes have discouraged her from pursuing a career in engineering because of the challenges women face in the field. The team’s aim is to increase the representation of women in this male dominated field by developing young girls into the world’s problem solvers.
$250 was awarded to Kara Martin from Polymer Science and Engineering and her team called Foam Improvement as the Audience Choice team.
The Minute Pitch competition is meant to be a low barrier entry into the year-long Innovation Challenge competition and the quality of this year’s ideas and ventures is already impressive. The Berthiaume Center and Innovation Challenge leadership look forward to the pitches that will be heard throughout the year. The next event is the Seed Pitch competition, which will take place on November 30 and is a higher stake competition than the Minute Pitch. Last year students were awarded $10,500 in funding.