Largest Cohort of McMillon Studio Teams Reveal Prototypes, Learnings at Spring 2022 Demo Day

Largest Cohort of McMillon Studio Teams Reveal Prototypes, Learnings at Spring 2022 Demo Day
Brandon Howard

After two years of virtual showcases, students and mentors packed Adohi Hall on May 4 for the McMillion Innovation Studio's Spring 2022 Demo Day, where the largest cohort to date unveiled their prototypes and innovations dedicated to tackling a variety of social impact and organizational problems. 

"This last year has seen us implement three different tracks in MIS to include social impact, organization impact and entrepreneurial impact projects," said Justin Urso, director of the studio. "These tracks have allowed students to gain experience in different fields and explore different ways of engaging with various stakeholders." 

The teams harnessed human-centered design principles, taught by the studio's assistant director Rachel Sullivant, to tackle myriad problems in the community that were identified through partnerships with local industry, non-profits and across the U of A campus. Projects in the Design Teams Program ranged from revitalizing Fayetteville's Executive Airport at Drake Field and battling online misinformation, to helping provide affordable healthcare solutions to part-time service workers. 

Urso said many of the design teams showed "commercialization opportunities." 

"Which simply means the prototypes and solutions they developed could have real world impact if pursued further," he said. "When we see this, we like to invite the students into Product Teams where they take it one step further." 

The Product Teams Program, which launched this semester, held an expo at the studio following the presentations at Adohi. This track was established to help teams create a product with a viable go-to-market strategy. Wilson Strange, the team lead behind TGG's Technologies' corrugated bed frame, said his team was able to complete its first iteration prototype by the end of the semester and had been conducting user testing inside the studios facility. 

Strange said the next steps for TGG involve producing a marketable final product and creating a legal entity through which to sell it.  

"Being a part of Product Teams was an incredible experience," Strange said.

Other projects in the Product Teams Program included a digital menu management platform, an autonomous lawn care robot and a mechanical arm designed to decrease forklift accidents inside Tyson Foods warehouses.  

Urso said these teams are reshaping innovation at the U of A. 

"As we go forward, not only will we see a robust alumnus of innovators and entrepreneurs, but we will see leaders that are going to shape our future in positive ways for many years to come," Urso said.  

"I'm so thankful that the McMillon Innovation Studio can be a part of their journey." 

Spring 2022 Design Teams 

37 North Expeditions 

  • Scope: Northwest Arkansas' vast trails system can be intimidating or seem inaccessible to new or novice users. The 37 North Expedition team seeks to make the trail systems accessible to all ages and abilities with software that alerts users of trail risks and gamifies usage. 

  • Project lead: Amanda Thomsen, sophomore, mathematics and economics  

  • Team: Grayson Allen, junior, Strategy, Entrepreneurship and Venture Inn (SEVI); Josh Hollis, junior, engineering; Laith Kewan, sophomore, history; Dayton Miller, senior, finance; Philip Nunez, sophomore, business; Cooper Timmons, senior, marketing 

  • Mentor: Danny Collins, founder, 37 North Expeditions  

Fly Fayetteville with Drake Field 

  • Scope: Fayetteville's Executive Airport at Drake Field is hampered by its location in a valley, which can pose problems for small aircrafts. The Drake Field team believes the airport can be revitalized as a hub for autonomous vehicles that can more easily transport riders to outdoor destination spots in the Ozarks. 

  • Project lead: RyLeigh Werner, junior, supply chain and economics 

  • Team: Hudson Brown, freshman, economics; Christian Buck, junior, mechanical engineering; Gisela Cubero, freshman, civil engineering; Allison Primm, senior, international business and political science; Kaisey Yamauchi, freshman, finance and SEVI 

  • Mentor: Monty Roberts, aeronautical representative, Airport Board 

Hog Blog 

  • Scope: Hog Blog seeks to connect U of A students, make for a more mindful campus and increase mental health awareness via a social media app tailored to students. 

  • Project lead: Anna Blake Lively, senior, accounting and information systems 

  • Team: Cadence Donnell, freshman, marketing; Judy Lai, senior, information systems management; Jordyn Lassiter, sophomore, advertising and public relations; Justin Mach, freshman, computer science; Logan Petty, junior, entrepreneurship, small business operations and finance 

  • Mentors: Kelly Barnes, director, Included Health; Josette Cline, director, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 

Misinfy 

  • Scope: Disinformation has had a detrimental effect on society. Misinfy seeks to mitigate this problem with their browser extension, which provides a ranking for online articles on a 1-100 scale based on several criteria, including the website's transparency, fact-checking, whether it's a non-commercial site and if the author provided justifications for their claims. 

  • Project lead: Ronel Almanza Guizado, senior, physics 

  • Team: Kyle Heath, senior, international business; Devan Mishra, senior, chemistry; Gavin Peddicord, freshman, management; Michael Stang, junior, pre-business; Ryoya Ueki, freshman, business, management, marketing and related support services 

  • Mentors: Marie Altgilbers, researcher, Experimental Social Psychology Lab; Aron Shelton, director, Finding Northwest Arkansas; Caleb Talley, executive director, Startup Junkie; Mario Troncoso, director of film and media ecosystems, Creative Arkansas Community Hub and Exchange (CACHE) 

Ox 

  • Scope: Repetitive, tedious tasks in warehouses can be physically taxing and lead to isolation among workers. The Ox team seeks to integrate gamification into order fulfillment to increase engagement and productivity for employees.  

  • Project lead: Jack Norris, sophomore, computer science and finance 

  • Team: Robby Astle, senior, economics; Caroline Cordes, sophomore, data science statistics; Hayden Clow, junior, marketing information systems; Brittney Nguyen, freshman, industrial engineering; Jackson Ritchey, sophomore, computer science 

  • Mentor: Tanner Green, chief product officer, Ox 

Serious Bean Company 

  • Scope: Beans provide health benefits that align with the health-conscious mindset of Millennials and Gen-Z. This team developed an all-in-one, bean-based meal kit that also includes QR codes to websites listing the kit's health benefits and a recipe for the food inside.  

  • Project lead: Landen Usher, freshman, finance and economics 

  • Team: Patrick Kelleher, freshman, business; Rodrigo Mendez, junior, international business; Sally Ngo, junior, chemical engineering; Alexis Urquidi, sophomore, finance

  • Mentor: Matt Voltoline, marketing director, Lakeside Foods 

Share Care 

  • Scope: Small businesses and restaurants need to find a way to make healthcare affordable for employees. Share Care solves that problem by pairing small businesses with healthcare providers like Community Clinic NWA. To avoid expensive monthly premiums, the program is set up so that companies pay only when employees are sick or accessing healthcare. 

  • Project lead: Alex Cummings, junior, economics and finance 

  • Team: Brenda Hernandez, senior, biomedical engineering; Jayson Holt, sophomore, pre-business; Erich Kohlberg, junior, finance and computer science; Nathaniel Liu, engineering; Evan Yu, sophomore, finance   

  • Mentor: Amanda Echegoyen, chief operating officer, Community Clinic NWA  

Softtek 

  • Scope: Retail pickers sometimes spend an hour or more completing an order due to inventory availability, waiting for custom deli orders and searching for out-of-stock items. Softtek's third-party app improves efficiency via a blue-tooth beacon system that triggers once a picker enters the store. The shopping list is immediately compared against store inventory — providing a color-coded system for which items are in stock, running low or completely gone — and also pings the deli to begin making custom orders. 

  • Project lead: Namrata Anand, sophomore, accounting and music performance 

  • Team: Angela Campuzano, freshman, engineering; Reagan Herrmann, sophomore, pre-business; Adam Maxwell, freshman, finance 

  • Mentor: Fulvio Manete, global solutions vice president for retail, Softtek 

Sustainability Consortium 

  • Scope: 18 million pounds of coffee waste are produced each year, hindering recycling efforts and polluting the environment. The Sustainability Consortium seeks to reduce the negative impact on the environment by incorporating used coffee grounds into road construction projects. 

  • Project lead: Ethan Potts, sophomore, biomedical engineering 

  • Team: Joseph Bergin, sophomore, computer science; Konoka Hattori, freshman, international studies; Ana Mills, junior, chemical engineering; Nathania Nischal, senior, biomedical engineering; Fatima Orellana, senior, mathematics 

  • Mentors: Jennifer Luchte, sustainability director, Green Field Solutions; Jennifer Park, innovation program coordinator, The Sustainability Consortium 

Walmart 

  • Scope: Generation X and Gen Y customers don't always choose Walmart as their primary retailer. This team seeks to increase engagement among this user base by creating an interactive web page dedicated to recipes.  

  • Project lead: Mitchell Bylak, sophomore, computer science and finance 

  • Team: Melisia Benedict, senior, marketing and information systems; Sebastian Bruck, junior, marketing; Ami Ino, freshman, international business; Ashwin Narayan, senior, industrial engineering; Hector Salinas, junior, computer science; Tatiana Shi, senior, marketing 

  • Mentors: Jim Brauher, head of U.S. strategy, Walmart; Brian Fischman, principal product manager, Walmart 

The Yarn Council 

  • Scope: College-aged students need better ways to easily pick up yarn crafting as a hobby. The Yarn Council has created a prototype — Yarn Monthly — that delivers all the materials needed for a themed project, including the right colors of yarn, needles and patterns. The monthly subscription kit also includes links to an online help forum.  

  • Project lead: Ryan Williams, sophomore, electrical engineering 

  • Team: Abigail Cox, freshman, biomedical engineering; Grace Hunley, sophomore, supply chain management; Kevin Oro, junior, mechanical engineering; Mary-Catherine Taylor, sophomore, supply chain management  

  • Mentor: The Craft Yarn Council 

Spring 2022 Product Teams 

Bento 

  • Scope: Bento is a digital menu management platform that puts resources back into the hands of restaurant owners, increases their bottom line and paves the way to bringing customers back in person. 

  • Project leads: Olivia Pledger, senior, international business; Toma Tomonari, senior, computer science 

  • Team: Gustavo Garcia, senior, computer science 

  • Mentor: Justin Urso, director, McMillon Innovation Studio 

Snorezzz 

  • Scope: Snorezzz is developing an all-natural solution to sleep problems by getting to the root of people's sleep issues through vitamin and mineral detection and supplementation. 

  • Project lead: Julia Davis, senior, business management 

  • Team: ; Wesley Smith, senior, business administration; Masako Suzuki, senior, marketing 

  • Mentor: Andres Lazarte, co-founder, Basis Health  

TGG 

  • Scope: This corrugated bedframe product provides customers with a low-cost alternative to wood and metal products, and is lightweight, sustainable and easily discarded. 

  • Project lead: Wilson Strange, senior, accounting and finance 

  • Team: Braylon Alcorn; Jordan Butler, sophomore, computer engineering; Zachary Lorenzoni, junior, supply chain management; David Smith, freshman, electrical engineering 

  • Mentors: Mike Finan, founder and vice president of business development, TGG; John Gardner, partner, TGG 

Tyson 

  • Scope: In an effort to avert injuries to Tyson Foods employees inside its warehouses, this team developed a modular mechanical arm designed for forklifts. Red, yellow and green lights, which move with the forklift to show its intended path, are projected onto the floor to prevent collisions between forklifts and pedestrians. 

  • Project lead: Akeem Sandoval, senior, computer science 

  • Team: Mason Uhl, junior, finance 

Walmart 

  • Scope: This team has developed a page bag product and process helps to track the location of Walmart's last mile delivery system by including a QR sticker and other technology solutions. 

  • Project lead: Andres Balderrama, junior, finance and computer science 

  • Team: Carter Kirkland, senior, marketing; Nik Limperis, senior, finance; Andres Montano, senior; Josh Shackleton, senior, computer science 

Willow Bot 

  • Scope: Lawn care companies are struggling to maintain staff due to increasing labor shortages. AutoWillow addresses the problem with its all-in-one, fully autonomous mowing robot that weed-eats, edges and blows.  

  • Project lead: Quinn Childress, senior, computer engineering 

  • Team: Jameson Thomas, junior, computer engineering and German 

About the U of A Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation: The Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation creates and curates innovation and entrepreneurship experiences for students across all disciplines. Through the Brewer Family Entrepreneurship Hub, McMillon Innovation Studio, Startup Village, and Greenhouse at the Bentonville Collaborative, OEI provides free workshops and programs — including social and corporate innovation design teams, venture internships, competitions and startup coaching. A unit of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Division of Economic Development, OEI also offers on-demand support for students who will be innovators within existing organizations and entrepreneurs who start something new.   

Contacts

Brandon Howard, communications and social media specialist
Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation
479-418-4803, bjhoward@uark.edu

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