Swim With the Sharks

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April 22, 2016

Spartan Engineers from ME285 present a design to the stars of Shark Tank 

Students in Kathy Stevenson’s ME285 class accepted a design challenge on a three-week deadline and recently ended up “swimming with the sharks.” They were among the MSU undergraduate innovators who took center stage at the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) OneShow event in Chicago April 13.Mechanical engineering majors Jacob Flight, Colton Knopf, Nick Santi, and Tyler Nicolay, and engineering major Cameron Alvado took center stage with their Barista2Go design at the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) OneShow event in Chicago April 13. 

Three MSU student teams, Barista2Go from the College of Engineering, and teams Bringitt and Ineed, competed for the chance at a $10,000 prize, pitching their ideas to celebrity entrepreneur judges Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec, from ABC’s hit show, Shark Tank. Nineteen teams entered the contest but only three were chosen for an all-expense paid trip to Chicago to pitch. 

The NAMA OneShow is the premier annual trade show for the food and refreshment vending, coffee service, and foodservice management industries. Nineteen MSU student teams applied to take part in the first-ever Swim with the Sharks opener. 

The design-intensive challenge was part of Stevenson’s ME285 Advanced CAD Tools class and was a joint venture with Spartan Innovations Director Paul Jaques. 

“The project exposed students to real life design challenges and business applications,” she said, “and taught students the valuable process of taking a design concept, through marketing and product promotion in the real world.” 

Stevenson said the ME285 class was divided into four teams, each submitting a three-dimensional vending system model and pitch presentation in just three weeks. 

“I am so proud of all my students. They took this challenge very seriously and came up with amazing concepts from start to finish, in a very short period of time,” she said. “The exposure to the business side of product design and the pitch preparation for two millionaire entrepreneurs was an invaluable learning experience." 

It wasn’t all competition as (from left) ME instructor Kathy Stevenson, Colton Knopf, and Jacob Flight, pose with TV personalities Robert Herjavec and Lori Greiner, along with Tyler Nicolay, Nick Santi, and Cameron Alvado.

“These young engineers may not have brought home the grand prize, but the experience and the exposure to members of the industry gave them confidence, wisdom and life lessons you just cannot get from a book,” she added. 

Team Bringitt took home the $10,000 prize, after pitching their team’s self-titled app: a peer-to-peer shipping network that connects students with one another to transport items between campus and home. Bringitt users can also generate income by making deliveries. Earlier this year, Bringitt received positive reception when team creators, Jarett Lazare (MSU Marketing Junior) and Danny Meltser (MSU Finance Junior), were awarded honorable mention at the Baylor New Venture Competition

About Spartan Innovations
Spartan Innovations provides the educational and financial support necessary to turn Michigan State University research technologies into successful Michigan businesses—and spur entrepreneurship in the Michigan economy.

Portions of this story are courtesy of Spartan Innovations.