Making their pitch: MTU students take part in Bob Mark Pitch competition

(Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette) Michigan Technological University student Kyra Pratley presents her idea PowerPendants during the Bob Mark Pitch Competition at Tech Wednesday night. Pratley’s pitch took first place, earning her a $2,000 prize.

HOUGHTON — In four minutes Wednesday, students had to summarize their product, the need for it, and how they would bring it to market. For two more minutes, they had to field whatever questions a panel of judges could throw at them.

The gauntlet is part of Michigan Technological University’s annual Bob Mark Pitch Competition, named for the late Tech professor who founded the event. It was put on by Husky Innovate, which offers a series of extracurricular workshops and competitions for students to develop ideas.

The competition is open to all students across campus.

“It’s a chance for them to get feedback from our judges and to win some prize money so they can develop their idea,” said Lisa Casper, project manager for Husky Innovative.

Judges evaluated 13 teams based on how innovative the idea is, what problem it solves, how it can be scaled, and other factors, Casper said.

(Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette) Michigan Technological University students Samerender Hanumantharao and Stephanie Bule present their product Bio-Synt during the Bob Mark Pitch Competition at Tech Wednesday night. Their product received honorable mention.

First place won $2,000, followed by $1,000 for second place, $500 for third and $250 for the two honorable mention teams. The MTEC SmartZone also offered $1,000 for business expenses.

This year’s winner was Kyra Pratley, who presented on PowerPendants, a fidget bracelet to combat restlessness, one symptom if mental illness. The PowerPendants website also links to mental illness resources and offers a community forum where people can share their experiences.

Pratley was motivated by her own struggles with mental health.

“I just worked with beads in the basement for a while, showed them to friends, showed them to some administrative friends of mine, and they said it was a great idea,” she said.

Pratley plans to continue developing her website and app, and get the company up and running. As it reaches more people, it can teach people about mental health, Pratley said.

Hers was just one of many amazing pitches Wednesday, Pratley said.

“I’m just in awe of all the amazing ideas that come out of Michigan Tech, and just to be one of them is an honor,” she said.

Previous students have converted their pitch experience into real-life success, said Jim Baker, associate vice president for research administration at Tech. Garrett Lord went on to found Handshake, a college recruiting platform. And Ashley Kern competed with Goldstrike Data, now a data science company now operating in the area.

“Many of the students competing here have gone on to other entrepreneurial ventures, because of the foundation they got participating in the competition,” Baker said.


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