Big Ideas Challenge awards big bucks to innovative students

Showcasing many innovative products and future business ideas, students competed in Minnesota State University Mankato’s annual Big Ideas Challenge Tuesday. 

This annual competition features students creating and then pitching innovative business ideas to a team of judges. This year’s finalists included Smart Beehive, Hearing Glasses, Smart Kart, Tocco VR, Downed Duck and The Foodpack group.

Teams go through many stages of development once selected as a finalist in March. Selected teams are assigned mentors who assist with final pitches and business plans. There was also a Q&A portion of the competition last Friday where judges asked teams about their products. 

During this year’s virtual competition hosted by Mark Masters, viewers were able to watch the competition on YouTube Live, where each business pitched their products one last time. 

In total the Big Ideas Challenge awarded $19,000 to various winners. 

Yvonne Cariveau, the first Director of Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship within the College of Business at MNSU, shared why this competition is so meaningful. 

“Entrepreneurship is a difficult path with no guarantee. It takes perseverance and belief that you can change the world, even if it’s just a little,” Cariveau said. “These new ventures may fail or may succeed but the support all of us provide to these young innovators, will highly benefit them and all of us for years in the future.”

The Big Ideas Challenge started back in 2015 and thus far has had over 40 finalists present their ideas.

Emmanuel Adeyemi, one of the first participants in the Big Ideas Challenge and now graduate fellow for the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, said the program inspired him.

“Dr. Cariveau’s passion for entrepreneurship is inspiring and very contagious. I myself am more of a mentor than a student now and I absolutely enjoy working with the students who participate in the Big Ideas Challenge. The past two years I’ve learned so much from the program and I’ll be taking all of that knowledge into my future endeavors which I am truly grateful for,” Adeyemi stated. 

The competition was separated into six categories: high technology, agriculture/food/beverage, people’s choice, and the first-, second- and third-place winners. 

Winning the high technology division along with a $4,000 check was Hearing Glasses. This product turns speech into text that you are able to read within the glasses themselves. The product is aimed toward people who are hard of hearing or deaf. 

The agriculture/food/beverage winner went to Smart Beehive, which was awarded $3,000. Their plan of action is to install temperature and humidity sensors within beehives to help bee farmer’s monitor hives and ultimately make beekeeping easier and save bees from dying. 

Smart Beehive also won the people’s choice award ($2,000). Viewers voted live during the competition.

As for the top three winners, third place went to Smart Beehive ($2,000), second place winner Hearing Glasses ($3,000), and the first place grand prize winner: Tocco VR ($5,000).

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