UTSA seniors compete for funding for business startups

$100,000 up for grabs at Tuesday's Tech Symposium

By Josh Skurnik - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Thirteen groups of business and engineering seniors at UTSA competed for a $100,000 funding package Tuesday to get their business plans and products off the ground.

They took their prototypes before a panel of 14 judges and had five minutes to pitch why they are the best of the bunch.

The school said the Tech Symposium, now in its fourth year, is cutthroat.

"It's very tough. It's stressful, but, boy, these kids love the competition," said Cory Hallam, director of the Center for Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship in the UTSA College of Business.

Senior MariPen Yeatts put it another way.

"I've gotten 20 minutes of sleep over the last 24 hours," Yeatts said. "If we do win, we will definitely do everything we can to make the most out of that $100,000."

With steep entry requirements, the school calls the candidates the cream of the crop.

The prototypes ranged from automotive to medical.

One group created a 24/7 baby health monitor with the ability to tell when an infant has a urinary tract infection. Costing $60 less than monitors sold by competitors, it also alerts parents if a sleeping child is suffocating.

"You get an alert on your phone via Bluetooth: 'Hey, your child is starting to suffocate. Something's wrong,'" biomedical senior Herman Paz said.

The competition began with a morning session, where the judges, comprised of business CEOs and academics from a variety of backgrounds, walked around booths to view the products and ask questions.

In the afternoon, each group had five minutes to state their case.

Winners from years past include San Antonio-based companies Leto Solutions and Invictus Medical.

With more than 24 years of experience as a CEO in life science and chemical companies, judge Gary Frashier put it simply when asked about this year's contestants.

"Oh yeah, loaded with skills," Frashier said.

A product called InfraVein took home the top prize Tuesday. It uses infrared light and a small camera to find veins when drawing blood. Its inventors said blood reflects the infrared light. They said it can help prevent some of the 156 million puncture errors every year in the U.S.

Winning students were Kristen Hamalainen, Sanjiv Patel, Andrew Shiels, Kreg Zimmern, Rachel Loeffler, Cody Baker, Alexis Morales and Ileana Gonzales.

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