Out of 36 finalists, ten teams were given top honors and awarded cash prizes for their innovative and entrepreneurial ideas.

By Lara Robertson, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS May 4, 2023 – The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship hosted its third annual and second in-person Texas High School Ideas Challenge today, with competitive presentations held at Texas A&M University’s Memorial Student Center and The Crowd Fund Showcase and Awards Reception (sponsored by Education Advanced) held at the McFerrin Center. Open to high school students across the state of Texas, the challenge, designed to encourage students to explore entrepreneurship and foster development of an entrepreneurial mindset, awarded $13,000 in cash prizes to the top ideas.

Due to restrictions in place, the inaugural event in 2021 was held exclusively in a virtual format, but the 2022 and 2023 events were held in person at Texas A&M, giving high school students from across the state the opportunity to visit campus and be introduced to Texas A&M, the McFerrin Center and the Aggie entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In addition to prize money for the top idea winners, this year’s challenge also awarded $3,750 in prizes based on “investments” from “The Crowd Fund,” with showcase guests having the opportunity to visit each of the ideas to meet the student teams and learn about their service or product concept and “invest” in their favorites via “McFerrin Money.”

For the 2023 event, Texas high school students were invited to apply beginning in late 2022, submitting their idea as a team or individual, via a compelling application demonstrating creative, careful and methodical planning. Following a screening process, a total of 40 finalist teams, composed of more than 100 students from 26 high schools in 14 Texas cities, were selected as finalists and invited to compete in person on the campus of Texas A&M.

Throughout the day, each team presented their idea twice, each time to a different panel of judges. The presentations consisted of a 5-minute pitch of the idea, followed by a 5-minute “Q&A” with the panel. Judges, selected from the McFerrin Center’s network of mentors, successful entrepreneurs and Texas A&M faculty, were looking for competitors who have an outstanding idea and clearly indicate that their idea creates values, can defend their idea against other ideas in the competition, and demonstrate to the judges that the idea is viable in the marketplace with clear evidence that the idea is attractive to a customer. Ideas were scored based on idea uniqueness, target market, competitive advantage, resources, goals and presentation content.

This year’s first place honor went to Slap Daddy Koozies from Vandegrift High School in Austin. Although the competition focuses only on students pitching their ideas, some students are further along with their concept and business. Alex M., Christian L. and Vincent C., all seniors, launched their company after realizing most koozies are made for specific bottle and can sizes and aimed to create a universal koozie that wraps around the container, similar to slap bands/bracelets.

“Two of us are future Aggies, so we thought [applying for and competing in the challenge] would be an incredible way to get to know the program,” Christian said. “We’ve been working super hard on this product, and we wanted to get it out there and get it in front of more people’s eyes to drive us toward more success.”

In addition to winning the top prize and $2,500 sponsored by High-Piled Permits, Alex and Christian noted other perks to competing in the challenge.

“It was really fun to be able to pitch again,” Alex said, “because we haven’t done that for a while, and it was good to really challenge ourselves and get out of our comfort zone.”

“And the culture of being around the other teams,” Christian added. “It’s been incredible to get to know some of the other teams and learn what their ideas are. It’s inspiring to see what other people are doing.”

Following high school graduation later this month, Christian and Alex both plan to attend Texas A&M, majoring in economics and society, ethics and law (S.E.A.L.), respectively, while Vincent plans to attend the University of Mississippi, majoring in entrepreneurship. They plan to continue running Slap Daddy Koozies.

“This year’s challenge proved that the future of entrepreneurship in Texas is brighter than ever,” said Blake Petty ’98, executive director of the McFerrin Center. “Each year we continue to be impressed by the high quality of innovation and enterprising ideas coming out of high school students in our state. Watching the challenge grow in only its first three years, now with students returning to compete in subsequent years, validates our vision and dream for this event. Not only have these young entrepreneurs identified important problems around them and in society, but they have the desire, drive and creativity to solve them.”

The McFerrin Center is currently planning its 2024 event, with applications opening Dec. 15, 2023. Updates and more information will be available at tx.ag/TexasHSIdeasChallenge.

2023 Texas High School Ideas Challenge Photos

2023 Texas High School Ideas Challenge Winners

Top Idea Winners
1st Place ($2,500): Slap Daddy Koozies | Vandegrift HS | Austin
sponsored by High-Piled Permits, Active Industrial Fire Protection
2nd Place ($2,000): Racquet Armor | Centennial HS & Frisco HS | Frisco
3rd Place ($1,750): ReactGlove | DeBakey High School for Health Professions & The Awty International School | Houston
Honorable Mention ($750): Easy Hang | Samuel V. Champion HS & Boerne HS | Boerne
sponsored by Mays Family Foundation
Honorable Mention ($750): LivLive | Westlake HS | Austin
sponsored by Mays Family Foundation
Honorable Mention ($750): Pop Pop’s Dandy Dog | Lake Creek HS | Montgomery
sponsored by Mays Family Foundation
Honorable Mention ($750): SignHi | The Woodlands College Park HS | Spring
sponsored by Mays Family Foundation

The Crowd Fund Winners
1st Place ($1,500): Easy Hang | Samuel V. Champion HS & Boerne HS | Boerne
sponsored by Education Advanced, Inc.
2nd Place ($1,250): DIabeticsOnTheGo | Central HS | San Angelo
3rd Place ($1,000): Infiniti Board | Centennial HS | Frisco
sponsored by Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets

2023 Texas High School Ideas Challenge Sponsors

Education Advanced, The Crowd Fund Showcase & Awards Reception sponsor
High-Piled Permits
Texas A&M University Corps of Cadets
Mays Family Foundation

About McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship serves as the hub for entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University. The McFerrin Center’s goal is to enhance entrepreneurial education by providing training, networking and assistance to enterprising current students, faculty, veterans and former students.

The McFerrin Center enables the startup and growth of countless businesses and provides competitive opportunities, professional development and financial support to aspiring entrepreneurs in the Aggie community through the support of a robust volunteer mentor network, corporate supporters, faculty and staff.

The McFerrin Center defines entrepreneurship as an attitude that acts upon opportunity. In this spirit, the McFerrin Center strives to deliver programs and events that are inspiring, engaging, motivating and life-changing. This philosophy has resulted in the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship offering more than 30 unique programs each year that positively impact the lives of thousands of students, veterans and other professionals seeking to blaze their own trail as an entrepreneur.


Media Contact: Lara Robertson, communications manager, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, lrobertson@tamu.edu