Skip to content
TCE Students Awarded at Graves Business Plan Competition

TCE Students Awarded at Graves Business Plan Competition

Five Tickle College of Engineering students won top awards at the spring 2024 Graves Business Plan Competition. Hosted by the Haslam College of Business Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the competition allows University of Tennessee undergraduate and master’s students to win start-up capital for an original business idea.

The Graves Business Plan Competition takes place each fall and spring semester. For the spring 2024 competition, pitches to judges were made on March 22, and the awards ceremony occurred on April 5. Prizes are awarded for first ($5,000), second ($3,000), and third place ($2,000) in two business categories: growth and lifestyle.

The growth category is for “startups seeking a large investment with high scalability,” while the lifestyle category is for “startups supporting local or smaller-scale opportunities.”

Ethan McFarland, a sophomore electrical engineering major, won second place in the growth category. His company, Spartronic, is a laser tag system that gives users the ability to create new game modes and have customizable experiences. McFarland founded the company after seeing the potential in combining STEM education with laser tag.

“Winning this competition is an honor and a huge step for Spartronic,” McFarland said. “We are excited to keep this momentum going by using the winnings to finalize our prototype and manufacturing before our launch.”

Camden Schuman, a junior mechanical engineering major, won third place in the growth category. His company, Aeroshine, utilizes drone technologies to clean Knoxville’s mid-rise buildings and solar farms in a faster, cheaper, safer, and better way than before.

“It is amazing that when you venture outside your comfort zone, incredible things can happen,” Shuman said. “I am honored to be a winner at Graves and look forward to the future of Aeroshine.”

Maxwell Coggin, a junior chemical engineering major, won first place in the lifestyle category, along with his team. Founded by three Knoxville natives, Pink Apron is a bakery that has an appreciation for European pastries. The bakery and its owners focus on traditional craftsmanship to elevate Knoxville’s coffee scene through fresh daily deliveries to local coffee shops.

Josie Rich, a senior computer science major, won third place in the lifestyle category. Her company, Rocket City Refill, is a zero-waste refill store dedicated to providing clean products. Rich aims to help people be more intentional about the things they buy while trying to emphasize that small changes can make a big impact over time.

“The Anderson Center’s motto is ‘come for a degree and leave with a business,’ and I will be doing just that,” Rich said. “I have met so many amazing people through this competition and have been able to educate people about the environmental and personal health benefits of shopping zero-waste.”

For the first time ever, one additional prize was given at the Graves Business Plan Competition awards ceremony: The Spark Innovation Award. Kyle Weiss, an energy science and engineering graduate student, won the award, which is sponsored by the Spark Innovation Center. His company, Lite Power Analytics, addresses important energy problems by providing accessible and affordable energy dispatch systems and pricing models.


Lilly Tran (