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Rainforest Student Pitch Competition Draws Large Crowd for UNM Student Innovations

IMG_2599Six UNM student teams pitching ideas for innovative products and technologies were lucky winners Monday evening at the UNM Rainforest Student Pitch Competition.  Held at Bow & Arrow Brewing Co., the event drew a large audience that packed the brew pub. The enthusiastic crowd listened to 90-second pitches from 10 team and individual student presenters and voted using a mobile app for the top five entries.  Two teams tied in the vote count, leading to the awarding of a sixth winner.

The event, the fourth student pitch competition at UNM, is co-hosted by STC.UNM and the Innovation Academy, the University’s tech-transfer office and student entrepreneurship program, respectively.  The partners raised $6,000 in sponsorships and donations, which were used as $1,000 prizes awarded to each of the six winning ideas/technologies.  Below are the 10 presenters and six winners.


  1. Joseph Mulcahy & Ryan Mulcahy (Anderson, undergraduates) – WhereU@ App, allows users to find friends, family and businesses in crowded or expansive places with beacons of light
  2. Matt Drum (Mechanical Engineering, undergraduate) –  company developing new products for aging population
  3. Robert Malakhov (Nanoscience &IMG_9082 Microsystems Engineering, graduate) – a method for regenerating cartilage in people with cartilage damage and disease
  4. Taci Derden (Anderson, undergraduate) – Oz of Pr, a care package to prevent airborne illnesses when traveling on planes
  5. Patrick Johnson (Nanoscience, graduate) – yeast management and production company for breweries
  6. Maria Oroyan (Chemical & Biological Engineering, undergraduate) – Armis, jewelry with an easy-to-access defensive device when faced by an attack
  7. Evan Deery and  Brice Keefer (Anderson, undergraduates) – company using virtual video format technology to create virtual reality real estate tours
  8. Katherine Brunner and Molly Schmeltzer (Pre-Anderson, undergraduates) – animal-friendly cosmetic subscription service
  9. Kyle Guin (Anderson, undergraduate) – Pencil-In, a new way to enter data into your mobile device calendar
  10. Trace Rucarean (Liberal Arts, undergraduate) – $ave $quad, a social budgeting app


  1. Maria Oroyan
  2. Trace Rucarean
  3. Kyle Guin
  4. Evan Deery and Brice Keefer
  5. Katherine Brunner and Molly Schmeltzer
  6. Robert Malakhov

STC and the Innovation Academy wish to thank sponsors Jaynes, Signet, Goodman Realty, Creative Start-ups, STC.UNM and Bow & Arrow (donated space) who helped make the evening such a success for the student entrepreneurs and inventors.

The next Rainforest Student Pitch Competition will be held on April 24, 2017.  For more information, go to https://stc.unm.edu/epc/.

See Kevin Robinson-Avila’s November 8, 2016 article, “Six student startups finish in the money,” from the Albuquerque Journal, reprinted below.

Six student startups finish in the money

By Kevin Robinson-Avila / Journal Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 at 1:32pm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Six student startups won $1,000 each Monday night at the University of New Mexico’s latest Elevator Pitch competition.

Prizes went to student teams building businesses with a host of new products and services. Among them, apps to more easily update personal events calendars and better manage finances, a novel medical process to regenerate damaged cartilage, women’s jewelry that doubles as a self-defense device, an animal-friendly cosmetic subscription service and technology for real estate firms to offer clients virtual-reality property tours.

It’s the fourth Elevator Pitch since 2014, when UNM’s Innovation Academy and the Science and Technology Corp., UNM’s tech-transfer office, jointly launched it to inspire student entrepreneurship, said STC head Lisa Kuuttila.

“The quality is going up,” Kuuttila said. “Students are showing more savvy on what ideas to pitch with much stronger delivery than in the past.”

Four of the ten startups that participated in the competition are already operating or preparing for launch.

UNM’s Innovation Academy, which offers students direct experience and real-world skills in entrepreneurship, will be housed at UNM’s planned Innovate ABQ research and development site Downtown, now under construction. Enrollment reached 420 so far this semester, up from 280 last spring, said Academy Director Robert DelCampo.