(Editor’s note: Management Executive Professor Don Lewis coached two students to a first-place win in the pitch competition. Lewis is assistant director of Startup Aggieland, a business incubator that provides comprehensive training and mentoring for any Texas A&M student who wants to pursue a business.)
Texas A&M University students Brandon Sweeney and Blake Teipel were selected as winners of the first-ever Student Entrepreneurial Pitch Competition during the 2015 Southeastern Conference Symposium in Atlanta.Two other Aggies – Joey Gabriano and Tiffany Sanchez – also were recognized during the three-day symposium. Gabriano, an accounting major and bugler in the Texas Aggie Band, was selected to join the SEC Jazz Ensemble, and Sanchez was asked to exhibit her applied interactive art piece, “Prey.”Sweeney and Teipel are both Ph.D. candidates in materials science and engineering. Based on breakthrough technologies within the field, they have created an innovative and accessible solution to the problem of high-cost and unreliable, high-mobility prosthetic devices by using smart nanotechnology and next-generation materials for additive manufacturing (3D printing).  They operate their business with assistance from Startup Aggieland, Texas A&M’s student-run business accelerator.“This competition was a first for the SEC Symposium, and given the incredibly positive feedback we received from the students, judges and attendees, it proved to be a special aspect of this year’s event,” said Torie Johnson, executive director of SECU, the SEC’s academic initiative. “All 14 teams should be commended for their achievements, and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for each of them.”
SECU LogoThe student entrepreneurial pitch competition included teams from each of the SEC’s 14 universities presenting their pioneering ideas to a panel of SEC alumni judges in two preliminary rounds. The top three teams moved on to the final round, where they presented their plans to a different set of judges and all SEC Symposium attendees.In addition, Anna Marie Wisniowiecki, a senior biomedical engineering major, and Gerry Cote, engineering professor and director of the Center for Remote Health Technologies and Systems, were acknowledged at the symposium for their roles as student and faculty ambassadors.Also, Paulo Lima Fihlo, professor of mathematics, was applauded for his presentation on enhancing math education through intervention technologies and gaming; Adam Rothstein, a third year student in the Master of Fine Arts in Visualization program, and Priscilla Villareal, a senior theater arts student, were the hit of the undergraduate mixer with their storyboard, film concept and character portrayal for Visual Arts in Film; and faculty members Tim McLaughlin, Department of Visualization, Cote and Duncan J. Maitland, biomedical engineering, all presented on panels related to STEAM to STEM, Creativity in Interdisciplinary Design and Best Practices in Research Partnerships.Organizers say the primary goal of the SEC Symposium is to address a significant scholarly issue by utilizing the range of disciplinary strengths of all SEC universities in a manner that expands opportunities for collaboration among SEC faculty and administrators. With that in mind, organizers chose “Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Driving a 21st Century Economy” as the theme for this year’s symposium.This event is also intended to display the research and innovation of SEC institutions for an audience of academicians, government officials and other stakeholders.

— This story originally appeared in Texas A&M Today.