Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Student Team PolarPanel Impresses in Multiple Case Competitions
Undergraduate entrepreneurship students from Bauer College’s Cyvia and Melvyn Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship took one of the top spots at the recent national MIT Clean Energy Prize competition.
Marketing & entrepreneurship students Bradley Cathcart, JP Pimienta, Luke Walther, Christian Kladzyk and Viviane Nguyen placed second in the competition, the largest student-led clean energy competition in the nation. They earned a $20,000 prize and were recognized for their business plan for PolarPanel, a battery-free solar refrigeration technology that stores excess energy as ice to maintain temperatures without sunlight.
“PolarPanel has the potential to revolutionize the rail industry and make a difference in the world,” Pimienta said. “With climate change being such a big problem, every small dent into reducing our carbon footprint in the world is a positive step to take.”
The process behind the technology was patented by NASA by inventors David Bergeron, CEO, SunDanzer Refrigeration Incorporated; Michael Ewert, Life Support and Thermal Systems Analyst, NASA; and Erin Laguio, Market Manager, CSX. PolarPanel is adapting this technology for use in the refrigerated railcar industry to curb the financial and environmental impact of diesel generators.
“WCE students have a unique and powerful opportunity to collaborate with researchers and their technologies,” said director David Cook. “This experience creates a robust learning experience as our students research markets, build financial models and create presentations to compete around the country.”
In addition to the MIT Clean Energy Competition, the students have also competed in the Rice Business Plan Competition, the Queen’s Entrepreneurs Competition, and the UT Texas Business Plan Competition, and look forward to competing this summer in the First Look West (FLOW) Business Plan Competition, the Texas A&M New Ventures Competition, and the National Cleantech University Prize Competition.
“I’ve always wanted a taste of the startup world, and getting to travel and compete in competitions for funding was such a cool behind-the-scenes experience,” Nguyen said. “Every great business started from somewhere, and getting to develop this business and grow it has been rewarding.”
Cathcart added: “The Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship is the definition of a Houston treasure. The tools used in this program, such as the business model canvas, perfectly address the angles required to have a robust and competitive business. This project essentially defined my undergrad experience. I’ve now traveled to both coasts, as well as internationally, in our pursuit of funding, and looking back on this team and moment in my life, I can comfortably say that it’s all something I will never forget.”
By Amanda Sebesta