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NMSU's Innoventure brings out the entrepreneur in students

Young minds with bright business ideas are ready to take the spotlight at New Mexico State University's ninth annual Innoventure competition.

Business Dean Garrey Carruthers stands before a student project at Innoventure.
Garrey Carruthers, dean of the New Mexico State University College of Business and vice president for economic development, visits with Innoventure contestants. (Submitted photo)

On March 9, 175 middle- and high-school students from across the state will be showing off the business products and innovations they have been creating since September. Judging will take place at the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces.

Innoventure, which is organized by NMSU's Arrowhead Center, encourages students to use science, technology, engineering and math to solve business problems. With Innoventure, students have the opportunity to create something new and innovative that may have true marketability.

"The students at this year's Innoventure have come ready to compete. They are dedicated, well versed in the product idea and are excited to make their business case to the judges," said Marie Borchert, director of Innoventure. "The bar has been set high by each student team ? it is going to be a very exciting day for all of the students."

Each year, Innoventure features a theme that helps steer students in the creation of their products. This year's theme is a fitting one for a land-grant university such as NMSU ? agriculture. Students in the competition were asked to create products for a school-run farm.

"The students were challenged to develop products that can be used on the farm to make it more efficient and sustainable," Borchert said.

As a result of the competition, students learn product design, time management, writing and teamwork.

The students are grouped into 40 teams from schools in towns and cities throughout the state, such as Farmington, Portales, Carlsbad, Las Cruces and Las Vegas. The judging panel, which is comprised of individuals in private industry, NMSU, Dona Ana Community College and economic development groups, will choose a winning team from the middle- and high-school categories.

"The future of the program is to really see the teams develop their products and also take it a step further, start their business, go talk to other companies to maybe help in the design process, in the production process," said Sara Sanders, entrepreneurship director
at the Arrowhead Center. "We would really like to see these students not only do well in the competition, but also understand they can move forward with their project or idea."

The criteria for a winning team are clear: a functional product prototype, a strong marketing plan and a well-written and well-organized business plan. This year, each member of the winning teams will receive computer tablets, with the high school students each receiving an additional $350 scholarship to NMSU. The members of the runner-up teams will receive digital video cameras and gift cards.

"It was sort of nerve-wracking, but we were prepared for all the questions from the judges," said Ian Shaw, who participated in Innoventure in 2010.

The public will have the opportunity to see the Innoventure products on the day of the competition from 3:15-3:45 p.m. The product viewing is free.

"I highly encourage the public to come and see the wonderful products the Innoventure competitors have created," said Garrey Carruthers, dean of the NMSU College of Business and vice president for economic development. "Innoventure is a great opportunity to plant the seeds of economic development by encouraging young people to act on their entrepreneurial instincts."

This year's Innoventure is sponsored by Wells Fargo, First Light Federal Credit Union and Travis Melham, an NMSU alumnus, and chief financial officer and co-founder of ES Physician Agent.

Melham, who also is incoming chair of the NMSU Business Advisory Council, will be at Innoventure to hand out awards, along with three other council members, Beverlee J. McClure, president and CEO of the Association of Commerce & Industry in Albuquerque; Adolpho Telles, formerly of KPMG and an NMSU alumnus; and Judy Johnson, former financial director for the city of Houston.

For more information, log onto www.innoventurenetwork.org.