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Student Experiences

$6,800 in Prize Money Awarded at Big Idea Jam

With products ranging from airless tires, healthy baby food, and perfectly fitting watch bands, innovative ideas were shared by BYU student entrepreneurs at the Big Idea Jam final. The event, previously known as the Big Idea Pitch, is hosted annually by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at the BYU Marriott School of Business as part of the Miller Competition Series. Entrants had the opportunity to share their ideas, whether those ideas started in a lab or on the back of a napkin.

A presenter shares his idea at the Big Idea Jam.
Doug Nuttall

Twenty finalists were selected from more than 400 applicants to present their ideas to a live audience in the final event on October 28, 2021. The 20 ideas were each presented in 90-second segments. Students were judged on their analysis of a problem, their product’s ability to create a solution, and the potential market for their product. Rollins Center Entrepreneur Founders served as judges for the competition and also interacted with and encouraged students after the event. In total, the center awarded $6,800 in prize money, with each of the 20 finalists receiving at least $200.

This year’s winner of the Big Idea Jam was Chad Pollard, a genetic, genomics, and biotech senior from Cedar Hills, Utah, for his idea: Tissue QT. Pollard received $1,000 to use toward further development of his product, a blood test designed to help diagnose dementia earlier.

Pollard’s idea came from the research he does with BYU assistant professor of cell biology and physiology Tim Jenkins. “Winning was kind of a shock,” Pollard says. “I wasn’t going to apply for this competition, but I decided to toss in what I’m doing for research. Finishing first makes me feel super excited about my idea and gives me confidence that I can actually make something out of Tissue QT.” Going forward, Pollard hopes to continue researching and developing his product until he establishes a sustainable company.

The second-place prize of $800 went to Austin Metcalf, a first-year MBA student from Cypress, Texas, for SafeShapes, an idea focused on creating affordable medical helmets for shaping babies’ heads after birth if irregularities are present. Third place, accompanied by $600, went to Scott Abbott, an economics sophomore from Draper, Utah, and his idea GreenGates, a new technology-driven product that hopes to improve energy companies’ abilities to store large amounts of electricity for later use.

Abbott appreciates how the Big Idea Jam developed his skills, regardless of where he ends up with GreenGates. “The competition was fun. Being on stage is good practice, even if I don’t develop my idea into an actual business. The process of pitching in front of investors was a valuable experience,” he explains.

The Rollins Center hosts the Big Idea Jam and other competitions with the goal of fostering entrepreneurship and idea development. “As a center, we hope the Big Idea Jam excites and motivates students to continue working on their ideas,” says Mike Hendron, Rollins Center academic director. “The competition gives students feedback to help shape their ideas and also provides validation that other people see some potential in those ideas.”


Writer: Mike Miller