By Alison Giblin , Sarah Hart , Lauren Knisbeck & Morgan Andrews
UWGB senior Mitchell Bell, majoring in communication, won the WiSys Innovation On-Ramp Pitch Competition on February 15th.
Bell Pitched the idea of redesigning expensive tools to be cheaper for social media management, video production, and marketing. Bell took 1st place, winning a $1,000 prize. The next event Bell will participate in is in late April. With the first-place win, Bell is now eligible to compete in WiSys’s statewide entrepreneurship competition called WiSys Big Idea Tournament.
This first event was developed last spring in collaboration with UW-Green Bay and has since extended to UW-Platteville. According to WiSys, Innovation On-Ramp also includes an optional learning experience designed to help students gain innovation skills. Students can take the five-week online course that features videos and interactive content. The course teaches students about the innovation process from start to finish. Participants start with identifying a problem, then they move on to possible solutions, identify their target market, meet with mentors, and finally practice their pitch. If students choose to take the course, they can earn the “Innovation Thinking” badge.
Bell came up with the idea for his LED panel after taking an advanced video production course with Professor Kavlie. “I noticed we didn’t have any lighting kits for field production,” said Bell. “So, I researched ways to make my own and presented my findings to my professor.” Bell also explains that the most important part about the WiSys contest is showing that you’re finding a solution to a problem, which he intended to do by presenting his ideas.
Professor Kavlie helped Bell prepare his pitch for the competition by bringing engineering solutions to communications problems. Kavlie has been giving Bell feedback on his work and more ideas to further his work on his independent study project. Kavlie said, “It’s admirable to see a student take the initiative on an idea and compete on the merit of that idea. I wish I could say that I provided Bell with a lot of guidance and general help, but his accomplishments with his project and in the competition are truly his own.” Kavlie says, “Students can gain networking opportunities with others who can help them take their ideas from concept to production and possibly a fully realized business or career.”
In order to get ready for the competitions, Bell says he prepared in a multitude of ways. “The first thing was putting together a compelling presentation that matched the judge’s rubric,” said Bell. “I also used the case-like format we use in communication classes to create a more fluid and coherent presentation. Additionally, I practiced presenting my presentation for a couple of hours.” Bell said the competition also allowed him to connect with many people who want to support young entrepreneurs and help them with their ideas. “I would definitely recommend that anyone interested in Innovation On-Ramp should compete,” Bell said. “The competition gives you a great chance to practice skills that can help you become successful!”
WiSys Ambassador Kim Krueger works as a communicator between the organization and fellow students. Krueger works for the communication and marketing department and helps spread the word about events and resources. Krueger said WiSys, and Innovation On-Ramp, are great opportunities for students to showcase their skills. “My hope for WiSys Innovation On-Ramp participants is to know the sky is the limit with their ideas and innovations,” Krueger said, “I also hope that they can take their experience of working with WiSys and tell their friends about its benefits so they can participate in future events.”
WiSys is a non-profit organization that serves 11 UW campuses, helping students explore their skills and help provide them with necessary resources. “This includes offering research grants, helping inventors to patent their products, and bringing new ideas to the marketplace. WiSys helps students, faculty, staff, and alumni take their ideas from their campus to a larger world where they can move forward in making their ideas a reality,” Krueger said.
The upcoming WiSys Big Idea tournament is on April 22nd at UW-Whitewater. At this event, students will compete against other students who won their local qualifier events (UWGB’s Innovation On-Ramp). The top three competitors will earn prize money, with the first place earning $2,500. Students have the opportunity to talk to experienced business professionals. Bell will be participating in the tournament.