Tepper Space Innovation Challenge 2020

(originally published 16-Nov-2020 on the Tepper blog: https://www.cmu.edu/tepper/news/stories/2020/november/space-innovation-challenge.html)

Blue Origin, Astrobotic Technology, and Firehawk Aerospace sponsor the fourth annual interdisciplinary space-focused case competition.

As the commercial space industry continues to grow, the Students at Tepper for Astronautics, Rockets and Space (STARS) Club organized the Space Innovation Challenge (SIC) to encourage interdisciplinary student teams across Carnegie Mellon and other top universities to support the continued development of the Low-Earth Orbit economy and involve human space travel.

During the fourth annual competition, teams gained exposure to the unique business problems of this rising industry, connected with leaders at top space companies, and competed for $3,000 in cash prizes and the opportunity to receive funding for their ideas.

Business Ideas That Go Where No Business Has Gone Before

“The goal of the STARS Club is to help Tepper School students learn about career opportunities in the space and aeronautics industry while fostering connections with professionals and space companies,” said Ben Fleming, current MBA student and president of the STARS Club.

“Tepper is one of only a couple business schools with a club dedicated to increasing opportunities for MBAs in the space industry. The SIC is one of our favorite events each year. We bring together graduate students with a diverse set of backgrounds, give them a difficult challenge facing the commercial space industry, and then after a week, we have industry experts evaluate their proposals. This is a great way for our sponsors to hear creative solutions while challenging teams to come up with business ideas that go where no business has gone before.”

While MBA students may encounter many case competitions throughout their time at business school, few incorporate interdisciplinary teams and out-of-this-world content matter quite like the SIC. “The Space Innovation Challenge is a unique take on the case competition concept that is familiar to many MBA candidates,” said Kris Grambow, current MBA student and co-executive vice president of the STARS Club and Lead for Innovation Challenge.

“It requires teams to think outside of the box and encourages ideas that are truly out of this world. Few case competitions benefit so greatly from interdisciplinary teams.”

The commercial space industry has been growing rapidly over the last several years and the SIC provides an opportunity for students to engage with pioneering companies like Blue Origin, Astrobotic, and Firehawk Aerospace.

Grambow noted, “Winning teams generally have a mix of graduate students in technical, public policy, and business disciplines.”

The case was shared with participating teams at the end of October. These teams of three to five students responded to the prompt by Nov. 5. The prompt challenged teams to submit a business proposal to contribute to the Low-Earth Orbit economy and support human space travel.

Teppernauts Take First Place

Hosted virtually, nine total teams — representing a wide range of students from seven universities including Carnegie Mellon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of Toronto, Harvard University, Duke University, New York University (NYU), and Arizona State University (ASU) — presented their ideas on Nov. 7.

Due to generous sponsors, including Blue Origin, Astrobotic Technology, and Firehawk Aerospace, there was no fee to register. A total of $3,000 in prize money was available to the top three teams. In first place, the Teppernauts, comprised of Tepper School MBA students Jason DiVenere, Michelle Fremuth, Sam Campbell, Ruben Tavakalov and MSBA student Vivek Jayaprakasan, pitched astronaut clothing designed for the unique needs and challenges of living and working in space, winning $2,000 in prize money.

The CMDH team, (comprised of students from the Tepper School, Fuqua School of Business, Harvard Business School, and MIT) pitched services for commercial astronauts that collects biometric data and uses it to create one of a kind pieces of art, and won $750. In third place, the Kerbnauts (University of Toronto, ASU, and NYU students) pitched Mixed Martial Arts League with fights taking place in space, taking home $250.

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