Student prototype scores breakaway

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Alex Von Mach, a mechanical engineering sophomore, successfully pitched his business idea for a hockey neck guard at the highly competitive Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in early November.Nov. 24, 2014

Mach Hockey neck guard places third in Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition

MSU sophomore Alex Von Mach knows what it feels like to take a hockey puck to the neck. It hurts and can be very dangerous.

So when the mechanical engineering student learned about D3O, a soft and formable non-Newtonian material that strengthens protection upon impact – he aimed for an entrepreneurial hat trick of design, production and successful business idea pitch.


Von Mach, of Birmingham, Mich., and his business partner, Everet Bommarito, an economics senior from Macomb, Mich., took third place honors at the highly competitive Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition in Detroit on Nov. 5-6. Accelerate Michigan is the state’s largest prize competition in the innovation sector, showcasing bright ideas to investors, entrepreneurs and experts who are seeking to foster economic growth.

Thirty student teams from around Michigan challenged Von Mach’s company, Mach Hockey, during the competition. The top student prize went to EV Airway Innovations, a team from Grand Valley State University. HeelSecret, a team from the University of Michigan, placed second.

“There were a lot of good ideas,” Von Mach said. “It was a good mix of people – a good entrepreneurial environment.”

Von Mach said his presentation skills were challenged as the competition wore on.

“Initially we presented to a group of about 20, including six judges. In the semi-finals, we were in front of about 200 people. It was a really good experience,” he said.

Mach Hockey’s prototype is a cut-resistant hockey neck guard and collarbone protector that can prevent neck lacerations and broken bones. It also provides the goalie with a sense of security, he said.

Von Mach speaks from experience. He was the goalie for his high school hockey team at the University of Detroit High School and stills actively enjoys the sport as a recreational player.

Mach Hockey's neck guard is made of a soft and formable non-Newtonian material to protect the neck and collarbones of hockey goalies.

Mach Hockey's third place finish won the company a cash prize of $3,000. Von Mach said he’ll use the prize money to purchase the company’s next essential piece of equipment – a sewing machine.

“I used to think you come to college, you study, you graduate, and get a job. College was one path -- you go in and come out. 

“Now I know you can make your own way in college and that’s the coolest part of being an entrepreneur – you can do it yourself.”