Local students Morris and Edge 1st place in InnovateUNG with tools for rust removal

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Social Circle and Monroe students win $2,000 prize and plan to take winning product to the market

Michael Morris and Nolan Edge, center group, won the innovateUNG Pitch Challenge. Their innovation, “E-Z Rust,” removes rust from cars and tools. Presley Sutton, second from right, took second place with a farm feed delivery service idea. Rafaella Jean Villanueva, second from left, earned the crowd favorite prize for her app to cut down on excessive commission fees for currency exchange. Dr. Ruben Boling, director of UNG’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, is on the far left. April Sledge, Workforce Opportunities for Rural Communities grant program coordinator, is on the far right

DAHLONEGA, GA (03/30/2021)– When Michael Morris and Nolan Edge showed proficiency in a chemistry class, University of North Georgia (UNG) senior lecturer Tashia Caughran asked them if they wanted to do research. Morris and Edge took her up on the offer and now are working on a product with the potential to make rust removal for cars and tools easier.

The freshmen shared their passion for their “E-Z Rust” innovation at the third annual innovateUNG Pitch Challenge on March 16 and emerged with the $2,000 first prize.

“Now we know going forward we have a product that can be put in the market,” said Morris, a Social Circle resident who is pursuing a degree in biology. “And we have a relatively solid pitch for it.”

They were encouraged by the positive feedback they received from the five business professionals who judged the contest. The pair expressed gratitude to Dr. Jim Konzelman, professor of chemistry, for his inspiration of their work. 

“His leadership and his direction have helped us get here,” said Edge, a Monroe resident who is pursuing a degree in chemistry. “And it means a lot to be able to present and win.”

The Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in UNG’s Mike Cottrell College of Business hosted the event, which had teams in person at the Library Technology Center and judges and spectators participating through Zoom. Morris and Edge made up one of six UNG student teams who competed at innovateUNG.

“I’m very happy with our third offering of the innovateUNG Pitch Challenge,” said Dr. Ruben Boling, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The students did an excellent job and showed strong presentation skills. Their ideas were outstanding, new and invigorating to hear.”

Presley Sutton, a senior from Dalton, Georgia, pursuing a degree in management with a concentration in entrepreneurship, took second place and a $1,000 prize for her idea to provide cost-effective feed delivery for smaller farms. It is a business model she aims to pursue upon graduation this spring.

“It kind of kicked me into gear and made me think about stuff that I wouldn’t have thought of before,” Sutton said. “Dr. Boling was awesome in helping me figure out my business plan, money and logistics. It was good to get some feedback on the business and see that other people are interested in my idea as well.”

Rafaella Jean Villanueva, a junior from Manila, Philippines, pursuing a degree in finance, earned the $500 crowd favorite prize for her app to cut down on excessive commission fees for currency exchange.

“This experience was really enriching as I was able to share my idea that I’ve been working on since last summer and get some feedback on it,” Villanueva said. “It was also nice to see my fellow students have some really good pitches. Overall, it was such a great experience. It was nice to make some new connections.”

The other competitors were:

  • Tristan Andrew Acosta, of Watkinsville, and Calista Abercrombie, of Gainesville: Their innovation seeks to increase crop yields using a smaller plot of land through a combination of hydroponics, which is growing plants without soil, and aquafarming, which is the farming of seafood.
  • Jack Orion Harden, of Dahlonega: His innovation helps clean hair out of razors and store a razor safely.
  • Katherine Schwind, of Suwanee: Her innovation is a nonprofit app to help fund overseas missionaries worldwide.

The judges were:

  • Chris Colson, program director of innovation at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  • Cade Joiner, founder of Shred-X Secure Document Destruction and vice chair of the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.
  • Mike Masters, founder of M&W Real Estate Development LLC, Cliffhouse Development LLC, and Masters Flooring Company; pilot for American Airlines.
  • Steve Quehl, partner for TechCXO.
  • Robert Rupard, chair of Pro-GeneX Laboratories Inc.

About the University of North Georgia

Positioned in the fastest-growing region of the state, the University of North Georgia comprises five campuses united by a single mission focused on academic excellence and academic and co-curricular programs that develop students into leaders for a diverse and global society. The University of North Georgia is a University System of Georgia leadership institution and is The Military College of Georgia. With more than 20,000 students, the University of North Georgia is one of the state’s largest public universities. The university offers more than 100 programs of study ranging from certificate and associate degrees to professional doctoral programs.

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