Team Earns $10,000 Prize for Plan to Commercialize UH Researcher’s Smart Cement Technology
Four entrepreneurship students from the C. T. Bauer College of Business won first place and $10,000 earlier this month at San Diego State University’s Lean Model Competition, besting teams from universities across the globe.
Undergraduate students Kevin Cho, Ody De La Paz, Nick Ravanbakhsh and Dylan Senter — all part of Bauer College’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship — presented their business model for Sensytec, a smart cement technology that monitors various properties of cement structures in real time, including cracks, contamination, corrosion, temperature, mechanical pressures and more.
The student team worked with smart cement inventor Cumaraswamy Vipulanandan, a professor at the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering, to develop a commercially viable business plan for the technology created in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“One of the main contributing factors to the spill was the cement that did not set properly within the outside of the casing of the oil well,” Cho said. “This cement contributed to a chain of events which eventually led to the disaster. With our technology, oil well operators would have known in advance to fix the issues and prevent the devastation.”
The Bauer students presented their plan for Sensytec to advance through several rounds of competition before being named one of six finalists at the Lean Model Competition. In the final round of competition, they gave a 10-minute presentation of their business model followed by 10 minutes of Q-and-A with judges. The students prepared for the event by practicing their presentation with WCE faculty and mentors in the days leading up to the competition.
“We worked about seven to 10 hours a day for about five to seven days,” Senter said. “It’s all kind of a blur now. Our team is full of night-owls, so we literally worked from 10 p.m. to 3 or 4 a.m. every night. It was intense, but worth it.”
Throughout the competition, the Sensytec team also received feedback from judges, which allowed them to further modify their presentation.
“It was clear that that the ability to adapt our pitch on the fly would be the difference between winning and losing,” Cho added. “In the end, it all came down to knowing our business well enough so that we could adjust the way we presented our plan in different situations.”
The students will compete in six additional business plan and model competitions over the next two months.
“Without the resources that Bauer and the Wolff Center provide, we could not have accomplished this victory,” De La Paz said. “The resources and education we receive within the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship are the best in the country.”
By Priscilla Aceves
13 years. 30+ awards.
Each year, Bauer entrepreneurship students are selected to represent the college and Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship in business plan competitions held around the world. Through a partnership with the university’s Division of Research, the teams develop commercialization plans for technologies developed at the university. Over the last 13 years, WCE students have won more than 30 awards in national business plan competitions, with more first, second or third place awards than any other undergraduate program in the United States and Canada.