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Innovation Challenge Winners Update Progress

March 8, 2017
Fisher Innovation Challenge group picture
Contestants in the Fisher Innovation Challenge pose with their business counselors from the WTBC before qualifying results are announced. They are (from left) Kyle Kuhn, Ullr Performance Parts; Pourya Nikoueeyan, Resono Pressure Systems; Emily Beagle, Torre Roasts; Dakota Roberson, Aktzin Systems; Christine Langley, Jon Benson and Dave Bohling, all from the WTBC; Matthew Faryna, Faryna Fodder Farm; Jaycey Lindsey, Pralee Eggs and Hatchery; Levente Pap, Lev’sonic; and Hamid Sanei, Aseman LLC. (BHP Imaging Photo)

A quartet of individuals from the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wyoming have made substantial progress on their business plans after winning an innovation challenge.

 

Emily Beagle, Kyle Kuhn, Pourya Nikoueeyan and Dakota Roberson each presented business plans and were chosen in November 2016 to receive seed funding through the Fisher Innovation Challenge, a program administered by the Wyoming Technology Business Center (WTBC), a business development program at UW. The WTBC is a not-for-profit business incubator that provides entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools necessary for success.

 

Emily Beagle, mechanical engineering doctoral student

 

Beagle is the founder of Torré Roasts. The company provides a foundation for coffee connoisseurs to improve their coffee experience by providing a home coffee roaster with sophisticated temperature control and roast profile specifications in an easy-to-use, sleek design. This roaster targets existing home roasters through improved control features, and novice home roasters through user-friendly software and design features. Additionally, Torre Roasts delivers other coffee products, including green coffee beans, specialty roasted coffee and fine coffee accessories.

Emily Beagle

“I am working with the WTBC to develop a business logo and website for Torré Roasts,” she says. “I am also working on creating content for an online blog discussing the science of coffee roasting.

 

“Our first priority is to develop a working prototype of our roaster. Once that is completed, we will begin selling small batches of freshly roasted coffee while continuing to develop and test the roaster design. The goal is to have this coffee ready to sell by the time the Laramie Farmer’s Market starts in summer. Simultaneously, we will be developing an online presence and reputation for Torré Roasts to begin finding a customer base interested in our beans and our roaster.

 

“The seed fund has allowed me to purchase the parts and equipment necessary to begin construction and development of our prototype roaster. Additionally, the resources at the Wyoming Technology Business Center have been instrumental in the development of the business side of my company, particularly graphic design and website development. The access to these resources has allowed me to spend my time doing what I am good at and has given me a better final product in terms of design than I could have produced myself.”


Pourya Nikoueeyan, mechanical engineering doctoral student

 

Nikoueeyan founded Resono Pressure Systems. Software, as a service, and purchased hardware will provide an innovative way to measure unsteady pressure in the areas of fluid dynamics and aerodynamics. The software controls the data acquisition procedure and contains other unique features. The target market is wind tunnel testing facilities, and the automotive and aircraft industries.

Pourya Nikoueeyan

“We have completed the proof-of-concept phase and we are working on our first commercial package at this time,” he says. “After putting everything together we will start our alpha-testing period, which will be around three to four months, to debug any issues with the software and hardware that we are developing.

 

“We are in contact with some potential beta testers at this time. After an alpha testing period, we will ask beta testers to assess our systems and give us feedback. We are planning to have our first unit ready for sale by the end of this year.

 

“The most important help we have received from competing in Fisher Innovation Challenge is the business counseling that the WTBC staff offered. I think without their guidance, we would have never gotten to a point that the seed funding becomes important. We are relying on the seed funding for all our stages of alpha and beta testing until we get to sales.”

 


Kyle Kuhn, mechanical engineering master’s student

 

Kuhn is the founder of Ullr Performance Parts. The company engineers and manufactures custom lightweight components to minimize vehicle weight. In order to maximize performance of motor sports vehicles, the power-to-weight ratio of the vehicle must be maximized. Advanced material systems, combined with optimized designs, are used to minimize weight in rotating systems and static systems alike. Ullr Performance Parts will launch by offering custom lightweight solutions for the snowmobile industry.

Kyle Kuhn

 

“I am currently working on officially forming the business, getting set up with the state of Wyoming and opening a business bank account,” Kuhn says. “I can then apply for money from the Fisher seed funding. I am in discussion with my business coach about the right path to take with the business as far as how the seed funding will be used. My goal is to be able to design, prototype, and manufacture as many of my components myself in order to reduce expenses as much as possible and give me the control over the quality of the products.

 

“I am working diligently to determine the best plan for how Ullr uses the money. Regardless, I am going to prototype a few parts that a customer survey showed to have high potential, test, and hopefully get some sales started by next winter.”


Dakota Roberson, electrical engineering doctoral student          

 

Roberson founded Aktzin Systems, which develops complex control algorithms, which couple to fast-energy storage devices (batteries, flywheels, etc.), damping power fluctuations. The result is a steady, dependable source available for dispatch at the grid operator’s discretion. The smart power grid of the future is complicated by the addition of significant quantities of renewable power sources, such as solar generators. This is due to random, dramatic fluctuation in power output from such sources.

Dakota Roberson

 

“The next step for my business is to begin developing relationships with industry,” he says. “Establishing these connections and bringing them the latest technology we’ve developed will allow us to grow our brand. Simultaneously, we’ll be finalizing our ‘alpha’ testing on the first version of the product. My plan for the future is to graduate in late spring or early summer of this year, and push forward with development of the business in Laramie.

 

“Seed funding will allow me to implement our control system on the first test system. It will also provide funding for us to spread awareness to the clean energy community about the revolutionary technology and build the brand. Finally, it has given me the confidence to push forward into a market that is difficult to penetrate without operating capital.”


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