Creativity and innovation awards presented at Tech’s Eagle Works competition

COOKEVILLE – Wil Clouse, Founder and President of the Clouse-Elrod Foundation, presented the Creativity and Innovation Awards at Tennessee Tech University’s 9th annual Eagle Works competition.

Eagle Works is a competition in which teams across campus pitch their business idea to a panel of judges for a chance to win prize money of over $13,000 in donor-funded scholarships.

The Virgie Elrod Clouse Creativity Award was won by team Barn Owl. That team was composed of Mary-Grayson Hamrick, a senior marketing major from Soddy Daisy, Julia Sedgwick, a junior business management major from Soddy Daisy, and Mallory Shuff a senior business management major from Columbia, Tennessee.

The team are all currently taking an entrepreneurship class where they were tasked with creating an idea to compete in Eagle Works.

“We each signed up to take this class because we were excited about the prospect of competing in Eagle Works,” Sedgwick said.

Barn Owl has an application that will solve the problem of old, unused barns in the Southeastern United States. With their idea, older farmers as well as the newer generation of homeowners can be helped.

“Through Barn Owl we will take down old barns that are no longer serving their purpose,” Sedgwick said. “These may be barns that are owned by older people who cannot take care of a barn anymore, or younger people who just inherited a barn they do not want. These barns can serve as liabilities to those who own them because of the risk that they may fall and injure someone.”

After taking down these barns they will use the leftover lumber to create new custom furniture.

“We will then provide the barn owner with a yard sign to promote our company and a discount if they would like to purchase furniture made out of their old barn,” Sedgwick said. “Barn Owl can help serve homeowners and farmers alike as it removes the liabilities of old barns and provides the opportunity to buy beautiful custom furniture.”

Hamrick came up with the idea of Barn Owl as someone from a small town who had encountered many old barns that were no longer fulfilling their purpose. Shuff and Sedgwick joined the team to help with the research and calculations of finances.

The team all had individual reactions to presenting to the Eagle Works judges, feelings about their team, and the reasons why they chose to come to Tech.

Sedgwick said that pitching their idea to the judges was “nerve wracking but invigorating.” She said after working with her team all semester, she found it easy to trust them to say what they needed to say during the presentation.

Sedgwick chose to come to Tech due to its proximity to her hometown, and the number of opportunities it presented major wise and its affordability.

“I was undecided on my major going into college, so it was especially important to me to pick a school that had many opportunities,” Sedgwick said.

Shuff, a senior business management major from Columbia, Tennessee, said presenting their business idea to the judges was “tense,” but felt that the three worked as a team and that made it an enjoyable time.

She said she chose Tech because of the business school quality.

“They are very involved in making sure you are ready for all business field careers,” Shuff said. “My time here at Tech has been everything I had hoped for and more.”

Hamrick, a senior marketing major from Soddy Daisy, said presenting their business pitch was a major learning experience for their team. But being able to work together made it easier and more enjoyable throughout the entire process.

Hamrick said she made the choice to come to Tech due to how well it seemed to fit her educational interests compared to another college she had attended.

“Tech has shown me so many things, allowed me to grow as a person, and given me wonderful life experiences I would not have been able to have if I had not come to Tech,” Hamrick said.

The team said it meant a lot to see this project come to fruition even if they are unsure of what is next for Barn Owl at this time.

The Robert O. Clouse Innovation Award was won by team Mower. That team consists of Chris Gettlelfinger, a junior finance major from Knoxville, Tennessee; William Pursell, a senior accounting major from Liberty; Tra Anderson, a senior business management major from Spring City; and Luke Hinson, a senior finance and accounting major from Dickson.

“Mower is an app that centralizes the lawn care market. It is a place for lawn care providers to promote their business and services to regular app users (customers) who need lawn care services,” Gettlelfinger said.

Users of the app will be able to search and filter for lawn care providers in their area, make payments for services, review lawn care businesses, and message lawn care providers. For lawn care businesses or service providers to have an account and be on the app, they will be charged a yearly or monthly subscription fee to advertise their business within the app.

“We see Mower to have the ability to centralize the lawn care services market, as well as digitize it. We also see Mower as a ‘win-win’ situation for both users and service providers,” Pursell said.

The idea came from the group based on some of their backgrounds and trying to come up with a useful idea, according to Gettlelfinger. Their project started in Ryan Matthew’s entrepreneurship class.

“Users of Mower will be easily able to find the right service provider for them, and lawn care service providers will find a relatively cheap way to advertise and promote their business,” Pursell said.

Gettelfinger, who came to Tech to be on the basketball team, said he enjoyed pitching their idea to the Eagle Works judges as he loves public speaking and talking to audiences.

“I was honored to win an award. I thought there were tons of great ideas shared and it was cool to get noticed for having an innovative idea,” Gettlelfinger said.

“Next for Mower will be to discuss further with my team and potentially make a prototype app to launch,” Gettlelfinger said.

The awards provided by the Clouse-Elrod Foundation at the Eagle Works competition were in recognition of the Tech students, staff, and faculty for their efforts in advancing the next generation of creative and innovative leaders. These three awards can be awarded to any team, regardless of their placement in the competition.

To learn more about Eagle Works and entrepreneurship at Tech, visit

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