Mines News

Release Date Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Mines Continues its String of Success at Governor’s Giant Vision and Statewide Business Competitions

Mines student John Barbour was awarded first place in the student division at the 2023 Governor’s Giant Vision Business Competition.

South Dakota Mines took home first place and four out of five top spots in the student division at 2023 South Dakota Governor’s Giant Vision Business Competition held this week in Sioux Falls. The competition is highly competitive and is the biggest of its type in the state. Mines students or alumni have received top honors at the competition for ten years in a row.

Mines has taken home first place at every statewide business competition open to university students this year. This includes top honors at University of South Dakota (USD) and Dakota State University (DSU) competitions. In the past nine years, Mines students have won nearly $80,000 in prize money from the Governor’s Giant Vision Student Division alone. These winnings account for more than double taken home from universities across the state during the same time.

“Our ongoing success in statewide business competitions is thanks to the drive and hard work of our students and all of those on campus and in our community who support our Student Innovation Cycle,” says Mines President Jim Rankin, Ph.D., P.E. 

The Student Innovation Cycle at Mines includes the CEO Business Competition, the Engineers Make Great Entrepreneurs Speaker Series,, Braun Student Inventor Award, Spark Prototype Development Fund, and professional assistance from the university’s volunteer Entrepreneurs in Residence and much more.

“We are very happy with how all our teams did this year. This success represents a lot of work on the part of the student entrepreneurs and all the mentors that spent so much time with them. In light of the high level of competition from all the other schools in the state, we could not be more pleased,” says Joseph Wright, associate vice president for research and economic development at Mines.

“It’s worth pointing out that, though we are the smallest public university in the state and one of the smaller schools in the region, we continually bring home trophies at statewide, regional, national and even global competitions when we’re up against much larger institutions,” Rankin adds.

2023 Gov Noem and John BarbourCounSil, LLC takes first place in the 2023 in the Giant Vision Business Competition

CounSil, LLC, a business started by Mines chemical engineering major John Barbour, won first place in the student division of the Giant Vision Competition. The company co-founded seeks to serve software needs within the United States Department of Defense (DoD). Barbour’s journey toward launching his own company took a leap forward when enrolled in the semester-long course Hacking for Defense at Mines, which is run by the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN). Read this article from Elevate Rapid City on Barbour’s experience in this course that opened the door to an NSIN X-Force Fellowship in the summer of 2021. During this fellowship, Barbour was connected with real-world problems at the DoD and tasked to find a solution.

During the X-Force Fellowship, Barbour joined fellow student Sebastian Nau at Texas A&M; they later brought on Manasy Manoj, who also took part in the Hacking for Defense Course at Texas A&M. The trio was then introduced to top brass at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Their problem to solve was an antiquated system for prioritizing needs on base with available funds from different pools of money at the end of every year.

Through NSIN, Barbour and his team were able to work directly with military leadership. In a series of meetings, they learned the details of the problem, its variables and the challenges in overcoming the issues they faced.

“The ability to have access and talk to these different groups of DoD leaders was a pretty incredible opportunity; this is thanks entirely to NSIN,” he says.

Through this process, Barbour and his team were able to begin the problem-solving process and the solutions they have proposed have now spun off into their own company.

“The main priority of CounSil, LLC is speeding up the Air Force’s ability to become mission ready quickly while optimizing the amount of funding available,” says Barbour. “Given that Ellsworth is now in the process of scaling up to take on the B-21 Raider, this is an issue that will only get more complex for base leadership.” 

Barbour’s initial success with the DoD also opened the door at Elevate Rapid City’s David Lust Accelerator Building (DLAB), where the company now has an office. The business incubator gives start-ups and small businesses, like CounSil, LLC, a low-cost place from which to launch their business. The incubator provides a wide-range of resources to help get new businesses on their feet. Barbour says it’s a game changer.

“This has been an amazing resource not only to be in this incubator and to access these resources but also to be around all these like-minded entrepreneurs in this environment,” says Barbour.

“John deserves a lot of credit for his incredible drive and determination to make all of this happen,” says Rankin.

Other 2023 Student Division Winners

Vizion UAS, a drone imaging company that helps agricultural producers increase yields, took home 3rd place and a $3,000 prize. The company was formed by Mines students Zack Holloway, Gerald Waterhouse and Devin Filter.

Bio-Navitas won fourth place and a $2,000 prize. The company was formed by Mines doctoral candidates Bharath Maddipudi and Khang Huynh in the Karen M. Swindler Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and evolved from research at Mines on turning corn stover bioprocessing waste into a valuable form of graphite.

Score-Score, a company formed by Mines computer science and engineering majors Chami Senarath, Christian Olson and Haakon Anderson took home fifth place and a $1,000 prize. Score-Score is a database and networking application designed to aid directors in the struggle of programming concerts through centralization and discussion of ensemble music. The team worked closely with Haley Armstrong, D.M.A, associate professor and Music Center program coordinator at Mines.

2023 Giant Vision Open Division

Mines students, alumni and faculty have a history of success in the open division at the Governor’s Giant Vision Competition, with the most recent win in 2022

In the 2023 open division, CellField took second place and a $10,000 prize. The company created a human analogue testing device that decreases drug development costs and reduces the dependence on animal models. CellField was founded by Scott Wood Ph.D., assistant professor of nanoscience & biomedical engineering and Mines biomedical engineering graduate student Hosein Mirazi.

BioBest, a company formed by Mines student Cody Allen; Mines professor Venkataramana Gadhamshetty, Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering; and associate professor PT Tukkaraja, Ph.D. in mining engineering; took home sixth place and a $1,000 cash prize. The company makes minimally invasive, viable, bioinspired ventilation systems for effectively scrubbing the airborne pollutants and toxic fumes from mine ventilation air.

Other statewide competitions

Two Mines teams also won previous statewide competitions at Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota. The agricultural biotech company Bio-Navitas, formed by students Maddipudi and Huynh, took home first place at both events. Ian Grinager, who is dual enrolled at Mines and homeschool, also won the high school competition with his business Your Neighbors Trailer at the USD event.



About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Mike Ray, 605-394-6082, mike.ray@sdsmt.edu