Beyond the Pitch

VentureNEXT Awards Four Student Scholarships


One of the best features of VentureNEXT is the opportunity to meet and really get to know outstanding students from Central Ohio through the VentureNEXT Student Awards.

Students who have demonstrated extreme promise and passion in innovation and technology compete by nomination for four $2,500 scholarships. The awards are open to students who attend high school, college, or university in the 15-county Central Ohio region.

This year’s college winners are:

MichaelMichael Fearer

The Ohio State University – senior, Electrical Engineering – Honors

Growing up, Michael Fearer was always coming up with product ideas—robots, wearable technology, and even a constantly cold pillow, which he named “Coolow.”

He had notebooks filled with plans and ideas. Last year, at the age of 20, he officially started his first company, InternWire, a website where students can post reviews of their past internships, find internship information for companies, and determine which companies are the best fit for them.

Michael Fearer was nominated for the VentureNEXT student award by Ami Thaci, director of Engineering Career Services at Ohio State.

“Michael reached out to me only six months ago to pitch an idea that he had about an online database product called InternWire. Michael was genuinely interested in knowing, from my perspective as a seasoned career services professional, how he should approach other career centers when asking them to partner with InternWire. He would come in and demonstrate the product, send me links, and ask for my input at every stage.”

Michael, who has held internships at Nikola Labs, GE, Marathon Petroleum, HI Tecmetal Group, and Electrolock Inc., hopes to start a renewable energy company.

CreightonCreighton J. Parent

The Ohio State University –senior, Electrical and Computer Engineering – Honors

Creighton, along with a team of Ohio State students and alums launched Loom Labs at the March 2014 Columbus Startup Weekend, and its flagship product, Thread. Thread is a mobile messaging application that enables Wi-Fi or Bluetooth enabled users to communicate in technologically underdeveloped areas, during natural disasters, and during hostile government conditions.

Creighton and team members went on to refine the business plan, create a minimally viable prototype, and talk to investors. “Although the company ultimately failed,” Creighton said, “the project as a whole was an incredible learning experience.”

In his nomination of Creighton, Luke Murray, co-owner and founder of Aspire Benefit Services, described how he first met Creighton during interviews for an internship. “Creighton showed a passion for wanting to help a local startup tech company, Murray wrote. “His initial internship turned into a full-time summer job and then part-time during the school year. He was the lead on several crucial projects.”

Those projects included development and maintenance of critical databases that included more than 1000 insurance products; managing web design SEM, and SEO projects, as well as software integration across carriers.

The VentureNext College awards are sponsored by Bricker & Eckler.

This year’s high school winners are:

KeevynKeevyn Baden-Winterwood

Metro Early College High School – senior

Keevyn says that being on the First Robotics Competition (FRC) opened up his problem solving potential greatly. He’s been in charge of the electrical group, design group, and mechanical group. This year, he was robot lead, with overall responsibility for essentially the entire robot.

“Keevyn has been a member of Metro’s FIRST Robotics team, the Metrobots, for the last four years. He has constantly pushed the bounds of creativity and innovation,” Keevyn’s science/engineering teacher and FRC Team coach F. Andrew Bruening wrote.

“While working at robotics, I was presented with an opportunity that could potentially save lives,” Keevyn said. The problem was airflow paths that made fires worse—specifically from front doors that were typically propped wide open.

Keevyn worked with engineers and firefights to design a unique doorstop that as Bruening wrote, may be Keevyn’s best example of innovation yet.

MadelineMadeleine Gagne

Dublin Coffman High School – junior

“When asked why I love math and science, I can’t help but laugh a little. The beauty, symmetry, and harmony are all here; all perfectly balanced. My reason is everywhere, and I refuse to let this beauty ever go to waste”

That’s how Madeleine Gagne frames her passion. She’s wanted to be a physicist since third grade.

Maddie began her research with algae as a middle school student when she heard about algae biofuel from her father. “I was entranced as to how something so sticky and smelly could cleanly start engines,” she said.

She submitted a science fair project using seaweed and had some success. She continued with algae project during her freshman year, then realized that she needed more advanced equipment, and that’s when she contacted Dr. Angela Miller at Ohio State. Dr. Miller accepted Maddie into the lab. After lots of lab hours and numerous tests and months, there was a eureka moment.

“Maddie has done an amazing job of promoting and sharing her research,” Danielle Collins wrote in her VentureNEXT nomination of Maddie. “Several of her science teachers attended her lecture this past spring at OSU. Students are supposed to learn from their teachers; however when it comes to Maddie, I am the one learning so much from her!”

  • Get startup tips and resources delivered directly to your inbox.

  • Resources

    Getting Started
    Tips for turning a concept into a company

    Getting Customers
    From honing your pitch to getting your first customer

    Success Stories
    Entrepreneur Success

    Getting Funding
    How and where to get the cash you need to grow

    The Hard Stuff
    How to navigate hiring, taxes, legal and more

    The Network Effect
    Making the right connections at the right time

    #Startup Buzz
    The news and trends that matter to you

    Rev1 News & Events
    The latest buzz and networking opportunities