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Second annual WVU Manufacturing Day Pitch Competition showcases innovative products that can transform today’s manufacturing industry

An innovative idea to combat infectious diseases, another to improve the patient experience and an invention to help musicians perform with ease won the day as the West Virginia University LaunchLab Network hosted its second annual Manufacturing Day Pitch Competition Tuesday (Oct. 8). 

Ryan Mezan, a 3rd year medical student in the WVU School of Medicine, won first place for his Ever-Clean Stethoscope Sterilizer. His idea involved a new, creative way to sterilize a stethoscope to combat infectious diseases. 

Two ideas captured the judges’ and the audience’s attention and tied for second place. Noah Kaczmarczyk, a junior studying industrial engineering in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, pitched his electronic music stand that provides musicians with a more accessible way to turn their music pages while performing. Lesley Kennedy, a graduate student in safety management in the Statler College, and Ashleigh Saurborn, a graduate student in communications in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences shared their idea for the SMART-B Device, which addressed and solved issues they had personally experienced in patient care. 

“West Virginia’s manufacturing industry currently employs more than 47,000 employees in more than 1,000 locations across the state, with average salaries already over 1.5 times the average West Virginia salary,” said Carrie White, assistant vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation. “This competition offers the unique opportunity for our students to showcase their new, innovative products that can help drive the advanced manufacturing industry to the next level in West Virginia and beyond.” 

In all, seven teams presented their five-minute pitches, followed by a question and answer period. Winners were chosen by attendee votes and a panel of manufacturing experts, including: Luke Diserio, CEO of American Muscle Docks and Fabrication; Greg Henthorn, Executive Vice President of Business Development of Flat Rock Development, LLC; Debra Martin, State Director of the West Virginia Small Business Development Center; Earl Scime, Interim Dean of Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

The top three teams were awarded monetary prizes totaling $1,500 to fund their business and product development. Diserio donated an additional monetary amount to the first-place winner. Winners also will receive10 hours of consultation with the West Virginia Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a partner in this year’s competition along with WVU Mining and Industrial Extension.

‘We are appreciative that the Manufacturing Extension Partnership works with both innovative students and faculty often, serving as a critical resource to the University’s overall success to embrace the entrepreneurial and innovation mindset,” White said.

This is the first of two pitch competitions to be hosted by the LaunchLab Network this semester. In addition to helping students develop their ideas, inventions and business strategies, these on-campus competitions help prepare them for national competitions hosted by prominent business schools and corporations in which the judges are real potential investors. 

Operating since 2014, the WVU LaunchLab Network serves as a comprehensive, one-stop shop to help students develop and commercialize their ideas, innovations, inventions or business models. In a motivating and supportive environment, The LaunchLab Network is the applied innovation centers at all three regional WVU campuses that provide students with a collaborative environment to promote their development as entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers. 

The LaunchLab Network is a part of the IDEA Hub, which offers a vast network of resources and opportunities to redefine entrepreneurship and innovation as a commitment to solving a problem or challenge. The IDEA Hub allows students, faculty, staff, and members of the community to access the necessary connections to foster transformative initiatives and programs across WVU and the greater West Virginia community as a whole. 

The WVMEP, housed inside Mining and Industrial Extension at WVU, is focused on helping West Virginia businesses improve competitiveness in both local and global markets. The WVMEP accomplishes this mission through delivering foundational support and innovative growth services.


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