Pictured above, from l. to r.: Tech students Porter Davison, Addison Dorris, and Riley Bishop pose alongside Eagle Works manager Andrea Kruszka with their $10,000 first-place scholarship prize for their board game concept “Sunshine Empire.”

Tennessee Tech students competed for over $20K in scholarships at Shark Tank-style ‘Eagle Works’ competition

Students at Tennessee Tech University pitched their business ideas and competed for more than $20,000 in scholarship prizes at the annual Eagle Works Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition.

The Shark Tank-style event featured 10 individual or group student competitors who presented before a panel of five judges. Each student developed a business concept, created a trade show display, delivered a presentation and answered questions from the judges, who then determined the winners.

Andrea Kruszka, Eagle Works manager and assistant director of Tech’s Center for Rural Innovation, praised the creativity and work ethic of the competitors.

“We had strong teams this year and almost all of them took advantage of the resources available to help them succeed, whether it was closely following the advice in our emails, attending workshops, meeting with Eagle Works staff or working directly with faculty,” said Kruszka.

First place, a $10,000 scholarship prize and the $500 “crowd favorite” award were given to “Sunshine Empire,” a board game designed by Tech College of Business students Julia Duncan, Porter Davison, Jacy Butler, Addison Dorris and Riley Bishop.

Davidson said the game seeks to make agriculture engaging and accessible to a new generation of Tennesseans.

“Children are quite frankly unaware of what goes into farming or agriculture and financial literacy courses are only optional until the high school level of education,” added Davidson.

Dorris said the game will introduce “communication, critical thinking skills and strategic decision making to children all across America,” while Bishop added that the game emphasizes teamwork.

Second place and a $5,000 scholarship were given to Stephen Holmes, a mechanical engineering major from Rutherford County. His eponymous device aims to offer a solution to employee back pain, something he personally experienced while working at a local grocery store.

Holmes’ invention attaches to bagging systems in grocery stores, raising or lowering the bags’ height so that those bagging groceries can do so without placing strain on their backs.

Third place and a $2,500 scholarship were awarded to Vivekanand Naikwadi, an international mechanical engineering Ph.D. student, for the “PregaBelt.” According to Naikwadi, an estimated 3,000 pregnancies are lost due to car crashes each year. His device offers a harness-like replacement for the traditional seat belt which he hopes will protect expectant parents’ safety in vehicles.

Leah Brandon, an interdisciplinary studies major from Maury County, received the Rural Reimagined Award and a $1,500 scholarship prize for “Farmer’s Friend,” a subscription service that aims to connect people with local farmers and fresh food. The Rural Reimagined Award is given each year to the business concept with the greatest potential to impact Tennessee’s rural communities.

Emily Armstrong, a marketing and business and information technology data analytics major from Putnam County, received the Entrepreneurial Spirit Award with a $500 scholarship for the “S n’ S,” a transportable shelf made from antimicrobial plastic and nano-suction technology that users can attach to bathroom walls as a reusable beverage holder.

The Clouse-Elrod Foundation, a sponsoring partner for Eagle Works, presented three awards, each for $600. Sunshine Empire won the Virgie Elrod Clouse Creativity Award while Adam Butler, an electrical engineering major from Lincoln County, won the Robert O. Clouse Innovation award for “Eclipse Hydroponics,” which seeks to use the power of artificial intelligence to simplify year-round plant growth.

Tech business students Gabriel Vasconcelos, Alexis Galves, Julian Fuss and Nikolas Schlosser received the Dr. Wil Clouse Maverick Award for their app-based creation, “OneCoupon.” The concept provides a one-stop shop for coupons and features an influencer-based marketing strategy.

“We’re incredibly proud of all who competed and looking forward to seeing who moves forward with their project!” said Kruszka.

For more information on the annual Eagle Works competition visit https://www.tntech.edu/innovation/eagleworks/.

Photo by Ryan Hall.

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