Student rocket scientists win $10,000 pitch competition at UCF Technology Ventures Symposium
Breakthrough rocket engine technology developed by students at a University of Central Florida engineering lab won a grand prize of $10,000 at the UCF Technology Ventures Symposium, a one-day virtual event on Feb. 17 bringing together Orlando’s innovators, entrepreneurs and investors.
Hosted by UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, UTVS 2022 was organized by faculty, staff, and alumni from across the university. The day featured inspirational speakers, engaging panelists, specialist tracks to encourage networking and tech discovery, and a startup pitch competition with seven early-stage tech companies vying for the top prize.
Aerospace engineering graduate student Adam Kotler won the pitch with his company Halo Engines LLC, amid strong competitors eager to grow their businesses with products as diverse as high-tech, eco-friendly fabric, video surveillance powered by artificial intelligence and a social network. commerce based menu ordering application.
Kotler, co-founder of Halo Engines, touted his company’s rotary detonation rocket engine as the future of space vehicle engines. As a student, Kotler and business partner Robert Burke ’19 ’20MSalso a graduate student in aerospace engineering, worked with academic advisor Kareem Ahmed at UCF’s Propulsion and Energy Research Laboratory to develop the technology into solutions for the growing space launch industry.
“Our solutions will reduce development and launch costs for military and commercial customers,” says Kotler, who is currently working on master’s and doctorate degrees in aerospace engineering. “Halo unlocks next-generation burn cycles that will reduce propellant usage and simplify design architecture, resulting in lower costs and expanded mission and payload capabilities.”
This pitch impressed the judges from UTVS, a group of experienced Central Florida-based entrepreneurs and technology investors.
“Halo Engines gave a compelling and informative presentation,” says symposium organizer Benjamin Patz ’85MS, former UCF engineer and co-founding partner of DeepWork Capital. “Recent, never-before-seen results with the engine technology were key to the judges awarding the top prize to the Halo team amid fierce competition. We hope the team will continue to advance this unique technology.
Kotler says the $10,000 award will be used to retain expert contract writers to maximize Halo Engines’ potential to land multimillion-dollar awards for the Small Business Administration with the Phase I and Phase II proposals. .
Two additional early-stage startups – Soarce, a high-tech fabric company pitched by UCF students Mason Mincey and Derek Saltzman; and TumYum, a menu-ordering mobile app company pitched by UCF student Alexander Damis and entrepreneur Rafe Monteiro — both won awards. Their price includes access to the UTVS Mentorship Network: a group of successful local entrepreneurs and technology investors who help start-up entrepreneurs grow their business.
“Soarce presented an impassioned plea to reduce carbon impact with a revolutionary fiber-waste fabric with truly impressive properties,” says Patz. “TumYum captured the imaginations (and appetites) of the judges with a presentation that had real personality.”
Visit the UTVS website to learn about the full list of presenters for the 2022 symposium, including the keynote speaker Eric Singleton ’86, co-founder, Strax Networks; main speaker Kathleen Loftin ’89 ’00MS ’09PhD, chief technologist of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center; featured speaker Christina Drake ’07PhD, Founder/CEO, Kismet Technologies; and featured speaker Tommy ’00 ’02MS razorsFounder/CEO, NESTRE Health & Performance.
Visitors to the UTVS website are encouraged to return often as recorded presentations from the symposium will be added to the 2022 UTVS Video Hall of Fame in the days and weeks ahead.
Watch the UTVS promotional video to learn more about the UCF Technology Ventures Symposium.