OU Students Advance to Norman Innovation Challenge
Three student entrepreneur teams from the University of Oklahoma have been selected to present their new business ideas to the community and a panel of judges at the Norman Innovation Challenge Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Studio at Sooner Theatre. From left are students Thomas Jones, Melissa Mortensen and Paxton Pennington, whose company, EchoFlow Hydration, will present about their reusable and creative water bottles.
After competing with nearly 40 teams throughout the Norman and University of Oklahoma communities, three teams of OU student entrepreneurs have been selected to participate in the upcoming Norman Innovation Challenge. The community entrepreneurship event will be held from 4:30 to 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Studio at Sooner Theater, 110 E. Main St., in Norman. Admission to the public event is complimentary.
“The Norman Innovation Challenge is a prime example of the symbiotic relationship between a great research university and a thriving community committed to creating a place where citizens, students, faculty and staff want to live,” said Daniel Pullin, dean of the Michael F. Price College of Business. “Investing in Norman’s growing innovation ecosystem is a key part of the way OU’s Price College ensures the enduring global competitiveness of Oklahoma and the nation. Through our Tom Love Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, we are proud to collaborate with key Norman leaders to identify and celebrate the innovators who are creating the future of our economy and quality of life.”
Last month, OU launched the inaugural Entrepreneurship Expo, hosted by the Price College of Business’s Tom Love Division of Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at OU’s Tom Love Innovation Hub. The event served as a trade show for learners of all ages, local business owners and entrepreneurs to exhibit their goods, services and concepts in an open forum, with opportunities to meet with potential investors, generate leads and sales, and build new business relationships.
After an initial call was announced for entrepreneurs in the area to participate, 39 exhibitors were selected to showcase their products and services, including Norman middle and high school students, OU alumni, and entrepreneurs of all ages and experiences in-between.
The event drew hundreds of students and spectators curious about future products being pitched by local business owners, and three OU student teams were selected by guest judges to advance to the NCED’s Innovation Challenge event.
“The OU student team finalists are enrolled in New Venture Development III, the last class in the three-course sequence for entrepreneurship majors and minors,” said Denise Parris, assistant professor of entrepreneurship. “In the class, students utilize the fabrication and code lab at the Tom Love Innovation Hub to prototype products that they use to quickly conduct presales and sales and iterate to find product market fit or to pivot.”
The selected teams will compete once again during the Innovation Challenge, along with students from the Moore Norman Technology Center, by giving formal presentations to a judge panel composed of local business professionals. Each team will be evaluated on the viability of the business concept, presentation skills and ability to respond to investor-like questions posed by the judges.
“The Innovation Challenge brings our community together to highlight and celebrate entrepreneurship through a venture concept competition and award ceremony,” said Maureen Hammond, vice president of the Norman Economic Development Coalition, which is hosting the event. “The evening will showcase and celebrate up-and-coming entrepreneurs that are creating innovative ideas in our education institutions. At the same time, we hope to infuse excitement about entrepreneurship here in Norman.”
The three teams representing OU are Banners, Cloud Patrol and EchoFlow Hydration.
Banners, a sports team fan app, is headed by Mary Motley, an entrepreneurship and sports management senior from Sherman, Texas, and Lane Callaghan, a chemical engineering major from Bartlesville.
“For a student to be able to showcase a project that they believe in and have spent over a semester developing really puts into perspective what the Entrepreneurship Division can give its students,” Motley said. “To move on to the Norman Innovation Challenge is just confirmation that this idea has traction. It has people in the community that support it and want to see it succeed. More importantly, it makes me want to see this idea succeed.”
Cloud Patrol, a radar system designed to improve drone safety, was created by students utilizing technology from the Advanced Radar Research Center’s Radar Innovations Laboratory on the OU Research Campus. Founders Devon Alcorn, an electrical engineering major from Wichita, and Justin Kleiber, a computer engineering major from Katy, Texas, are both pursuing minors in entrepreneurship.
“Being a finalist in the Norman Innovation Challenge is a huge honor, and is a large motivator,” said Alcorn. “This distinction helps us to verify that our idea and work looks good to others, and not just to our team. It allows us to see that our idea has true promise, and that we are on a good track going forward.”
Banners and Cloud Patrol are both winners of the Sooner Innovation Fund, a competitive Tom Love Center for Entrepreneurship initiative that awards grants ranging from $500 to $5,000 to help transform OU student ideas into reality.
Thomas Jones and Paxton Pennington joined forces this fall to found EchoFlow Hydration, which creates environmentally sustainable water bottles that incorporate laser technology with original artwork. Jones is an entrepreneurship and venture management senior from Oklahoma City and Pennington is an entrepreneurship and finance senior from Norman.
“I want my company to become the front-runner of reconciliation ecology, which is defined as the ability to create environmentally sustainable products for consumers by using my imagination and creativity,” Jones said. “Prior to the Norman Innovation Challenge, I kept most of my creative ventures to myself and I now know that it is best to put yourself out there so others can experience what is produced.”
Although tickets to the Norman Innovation Challenge are complimentary, attendees may respond by Nov. 30 via email to email@example.com.