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When Dr. Michael Selig, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, first heard about the 607 Soaring Southern Tier Startup Collegiate Competition, his first thought was to involve his first-year research students. The team is ambitious and works well together, important attributes for winning one of the cash prizes, especially the $5,000 first-place prize.
Organized by IncubatorWorks, 607 Soaring is open to students at Elmira College and SUNY Corning Community College. The goal is to provide students an opportunity to learn and practice important skills like problem-solving, working in a group, and formally presenting ideas.
“The competition will help cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit within the college students and teach them how to turn an idea into a business,” said Ashleigh Madison, Executive Director of IncubatorWorks.
Selig’s students, MacKenzie Brown ’26, Victoria Behun ’26, Michael Connor ’26, and Owen Mascaro ’26 believe they have an environmentally and consumer-friendly idea to pitch.
“Plastic waste has increasingly become a large environmental problem worldwide, and large portions of this waste are due to plastic packaging and disposable items like cups, utensils, and straws,” explained Selig, adding that the team wants to address this issue with an alternative product.
EC teams that sign up will be able to leverage faculty advisors like Dr. Jeffrey Alves, Dr. Mark Abdalla, Dr. Jason Carter, Dr. Alexis Rittenberger, and Dr. Michael Selig.
Alves, Instructor of Management, is particularly excited about the 607 Soaring competition because it will be a “terrific launch pad” for a Term III course he is teaching called, “Business Innovation and Creativity: VC for Entrepreneurs.”
“Students often see the world without the shackles of experience,” said Alves. “To me, this means that they ask what might seem obvious from a different perspective. As advisors, it is our responsibility to serve as a guide and help students navigate the entrepreneurial process of converting an idea, sometimes viewed as naive by many, into an actionable venture. The challenge for advisors is to not be critical but to ask the questions that elicit the most productive answers to the problem students are addressing. The students should be the source of the unique solutions that create a competitive advantage and provide a unique value, whether it be financial or social.”
While designing a product is one part of the challenge, another element the teams will need to consider is how to produce the product.
Selig believes the biggest challenge for his team is working out a scalable production model.
“I am hoping the students learn how to take the idea and ‘product’ from laboratory research and translate it into an idea that can be marketed and is attractive to industries and the public,” said Selig.
Overcoming this type of problem is exactly what the organizers of the competition hope students will learn.
“Through using the business model canvas, students will learn a unique way to dissect a problem and solve it – something that we hope they will use after graduation and for the rest of their lives,” said Madison.
Students from SUNY Corning Community College and Elmira College have until March 19 to sign up for the competition. Teams can sign up directly with Mariana Huber at firstname.lastname@example.org. EC students with additional questions can reach out to Dr. Alison Wolfe, EC’s 607 Soaring program lead for Elmira College. Final presentations will be broadcast from 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., on May 6 via social media. Details about how to watch the presentations will be posted closer to the event.