FORT PIERCE– Business expansion is now possible for the student winners of the inaugural Indian River State College Entrepreneurial & Innovation Challenge. Five teams were guided through the entrepreneurship process to develop a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM) product, with support funded by the National Science Foundation. Following a Shark Tank presentation,the originators of three student-developed businesses took home $6,000 in prizes.
Receiving the $3,000 first prize, Daniel DeAvila, 24, and Gabriel DeAvila, 21, developed U-Labs, creating customized 3D-printed laboratory equipment. The two brothers, both IRSC Bachelor’s Degree in Biology students, were inspired by their IRSC internship in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture in Fort Pierce. The Port St. Lucie residents realized that scientists often need new pieces of lab equipment for specific uses and then took the initiative to create customized products using a 3D printer.
“Planning our business took us out of our comfort zone, to go out and talk to scientists about equipment they need,” said Gabe DeAvila. “The prize will enable us to expand and get another 3D printer.”
A second-place award of $2,000 was presented to Rue Kindred, 18, for Pioneer Brisket Company, an online retailer for Florida smoked barbeque brisket. The company uses fresh beef products that are pasture-raised in St. Lucie County, with each brisket prepared with a family recipe and shipped, ready to eat, to the customer’s door. The Fort Pierce resident is pursuing an Associate Degree in Agricultural Economics.
HC Targets, operated by Chris Cordola, 21, of Fort Pierce, and Hannah Mann, 30, of Port St. Lucie, was recognized as the third place winner, receiving $1,000 for developing a bio-pesticide to combat the effects of citrus greening. Both students are pursuing Bachelor’s Degrees in Biology.
Other competitors were Jorge Morales with the Light Furnace Project, a light control technology and John Anderson, William Hutchinson and Brandon Martabano for WattBoxx, STEM based-educational kits.
The teams presented a five minute pitch to a panel of four judges: Peter Tesch, President of the Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County; Natalia Chekhovskaya Kearney, Program Manager of the Regional Center for Laser and Fiber Optics Education at IRSC; Richard Pratt, owner/director of SGI Global Holdings, and Donald Proctor, Chairman and CEO of Proctor Construction Company, who also served as the keynote speaker at the March 31 event.
“The challenge was designed to teach students the principles of entrepreneurship, provide them with support resources and incentive to take their fledgling businesses to the next level,” said Dr. Kevin Cooper, IRSC Dean of Advanced Technology.
Students were required to identify a key problem and design an entrepreneurial business around an innovative solution. The program ran for seven weeks and included multiple steps, such as market research, product cost evaluation, and business plan implementation. The program was modeled after the national Entrepreneurial & Innovation Challenge initiated by the National Science Foundation, which valued IRSC’s participation in the Washington D.C. event and sought to support expansion of the program at the regional level.