2017 student winners of business idea pitch competition announced

Atlanta native Ryan Gillespie earned the top spot and $1,000 at the 2017 Big IDEA Competition for his made-in-America electric bike idea.

The event, held April 20, 2017 on the campus of Appalachian State University is hosted by the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship (TICFE) in the Walker College of Business. Ten innovative students, pre-selected from a pool of applicants, pitched their best business ideas for a chance to win prize money and boasting rights.

Gillespie, a senior majoring in appropriate technology, wants to produce solar powered electric bicycles made in America out of responsibly sourced materials. 

"This product represents an evolution in electric bike design that started in an App State classroom in 2015," said Gillespie. 

He has partnered with Appalachian's Office of Student Research, Office of Sustainability, the Clinton Foundation, the Light Electric Vehicle Association, and the TICFE Student Venture Fund and the TICFE Fast Track program on the light electric vehicle research and development.

Related: Student's feasibility study tests e-bike market in Boone

Lauren Chesnet and Robert Harris earned $500 and second place for their business idea CIOa prosthetic for adolescents in underdeveloped countries that will adjust as the user grows.

"Currently, adolescents who are in need of a prosthetic in underdeveloped countries must often times travel to a different country for the prosthetic, and then repeat the trip frequently for any adjustments or repairs necessary," said Chesnet. "Our design would eliminate these issues by providing adolescents with a prosthetic that can be easily adjusted by the user."

Chesnet is a senior industrial design major and business minor from Mount Airy, NC. Harris is a senior industrial design major and mathematics minor from Fayetteville, NC. 

Chesnet and Harris also earned the audience choice award and an additional $500 for their presentation. The audience choice prize was determined by attendee vote during the event, and Beans 2 Brew, the Association of Student Entrepreneur-run coffee shop in Peacock Hall, sponsored the segment.

Dale Yarborough, a senior computer information systems major from Cary, NC, earned third place and $250 for his idea, GeoSimVR. Using virtual reality for educational purposes, Yarborough plans to stimulate and encourage learning about geology by demonstrating the fundamental principles of what happens as the earth's core changes and the impact of that change on the environment.

Author Bobby Martin '92 delivered a keynote address at the event.  

Martin penned The Hockey Stick Principles: The 4 Key Stages to Entrepreneurial Success in 2016. Before co-founding First Research, which synthesizes data into information that a salesperson can use to better understand a prospect’s or client’s business issues, in 1998, Martin earned a BSBA in Economics and Finance and Banking from the Walker College.

"The Center for Entrepreneurship would like to thank those who competed and attended the Pitch Competition," said TICFE Assistant Director Jonathan Carpenter. "In addition, we thank our exceptional keynote speaker and sponsors." 

Community partner Booneshine Brewing Company helped sponsor the event.

Winning students pictured with Entrepreneurship Director Erich Schlenker (left) at Appalachian's 2017 Big IDEA Pitch Competition
Published: May 22, 2017 3:09pm