The halls of the College of Business Administration building at The University of Texas-Pan American echoed with creative enthusiasm Nov. 19, as 36 student teams displayed their business ideas at the second annual Great Idea Showdown.
The Great Idea Showdown is held with the goal of promoting leadership, innovation and entrepreneurship among UTPA students. The contest requires each team to work together in formulating and marketing a product that could be presented to the University community.
"Our college is focused on values, initiative and professionalism," said Penny Simpson, professor in the Department of Management, Marketing and International Business. "A student's success is usually determined by their initiative, so we hope that this contest will encourage students to create business ideas that are more effective and efficient and will ensure them success in the workplace."
Winners of the contest were determined by votes. Ballots were available to students, faculty and staff who wanted to vote for their favorite and most effective and creative invention. There was one grand, second and third prize winner. In addition, there were three niche prizes in the categories of most creative idea, most likely to be a billionaire and most job creation potential. Prizes ranged from $250 to $1,500.
Dr. John Sargent, professor in the Department of Management, Marketing and International Business, moderated the final showdown between participants.
He said the event was organized as part of a programmatic effort at UTPA to increase the quantity and quality of entrepreneurship education and was held during Global Entrepreneurship Week, a worldwide initiative to cultivate entrepreneurial spirit.
"These are valuable skills for entrepreneurs as well as non-entrepreneurs," Sargent said.
Before the winners were announced, finalists gave a brief presentation of their idea and answered questions from the audience. Students agreed that this was a valuable learning experience.
"Our team's main goal for this contest was to get our idea known and to receive feedback to see how we can improve," said David Tamez, a junior marketing major.
Tamez' team, which was awarded second place, promoted child safety with their innovative Thermo Grill. Thermo Grill as presented by their team is an insulated cover for the lower, outer level of a grill to help prevent children and others from receiving serious burns during a barbeque. Thermo Grill acts as a shield against the heat.
"We tested it and it was a success; heat never got transferred," Tamez said. "We hope to someday put our invention out in the market, so this contest was a great way to break the ice when it comes to entrepreneurship and interacting with people."
Simpson said she was surprised that so many students already have business ideas.
"It was great to see that students already had ideas in plan, even before the contest and that they were very passionate about it," Simpson said. "I hope this contest continues to get students thinking about ideas and one day owning their own business."
Sophomore marketing major, Anna Oliveira, said participation in the contest was not only a great experience, but an inspiration for the future.
"I want to keep creating ideas I can experiment with," Oliveira said.
Oliveira and her team won the grand prize with Solar Signs. Their idea proposed to use small, solar panels to light overhead street name signs. The signs, their captain said, would be less expensive to install and run because they do not rely on the electric grid and are more aesthetically pleasing than some current transportation-related signs relying on solar power.
"Many of us have ideas but fear doing anything about it, but we want our students to take the next step," Simpson said.
Winners of the Great Idea Showdown for 2009 are:
First Place: Solar Signs
Second Place: Thermo Grill
Third Place: Ad Gustum
Most Creative Idea: Morning Buzz
Most likely to be a Billionaire: Headquarters
Most Creation Job Potential: Ad Gustum