GVSU students participate in national idea pitch competition

By Tasman Mattox | 2/15/18 12:02am

GVL / Courtesy

For students with ideas they hope might improve the world, there are many competitions that can help along the way. Currently, four Grand Valley State University students are in the running to win $30,000 to develop these ideas. 

The Outdoor Weber Idea Pitch Competition, held by Weber State University in Utah, encouraged college students to submit their most innovative outdoor product ideas. After a round of online voting that ends Thursday, Feb. 15, 25 students will proceed to a panel of judges. After that, the final 10 will get the chance to travel to Ogden, Utah, for the final round of competition. 

Currently third in the standings is Katarina Samardzija, an active GVSU student athlete and entrepreneur. After she and some of her friends had items stolen while working out at the gym, Samardzija created the “Wrist Locker," a band that can carry keys, ID and more. 

“People started asking where they could get one, and there was a positive snowball effect,” Samardzija said. “I use it more for non-fitness things even: going out with friends, concerts, tailgates. It’s a whole convenience factor. And if you’re kayaking, hiking, anything outdoors, you need to have identification in case of an emergency.”

Each student involved has a unique idea they hope to showcase. 

“Orindi was originally founded by the random thought of, ‘It’s miserable to be in the cold.’ I thought we could make a set of nose plugs that prevent your nose from running,” said Jordan Vanderham, a GVSU student whose product is a cold endurance mask that helps people breathe more comfortably in chilly environments. 

“The Outdoor Weber competition is a sports-based competition, so we are pitching Orindi as an opportunity for anyone to adventure outdoors. It was just a silly little idea, but then you research and you find a problem that needs to be solved.” 

The prize money the competition offers could help the competitors' products reach a whole new level.

“Basically, I would use the money towards a combination of further product design and engineering, and then getting a full working prototype that looks good,” said Zachary Skogheim, another GVSU student competing. His product, Trail Tracker, is a headset that would track bikes on trails in order to prevent collisions. 

“I have a prototype that works completely, but I want one that is what we would produce," he said.

Having people to look to for guidance has been integral in the development of many students' products. 

“Without the assistance of my mentors and recommendations for these competitions, I would not be where I am," Samardzija said. "The people working in the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation have been a great help to my business. Even recommending these competitions alone is so kind; I’ve even had them review applications and get a second opinion.”

Skogheim had a mentor who really pushed him to achieve his goals, too. 

"I also got connected with a mentor who completely changed my life," he said. "Once I met him, it was like everything changed. It was crazy actually."

Vanderham also expressed his appreciation for his partner in Orindi.

“I partnered with a guy over at Kendall (named) Jared," he said. "It’s super fun to work with a person and not just alone."

Each student hopes their hard work will pay off with the chance to improve their company.

“After bugging so many people for votes, I need to make it worthwhile, you know?" Samardzija said. "I have everyone and their mother going to vote."

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