Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Biotech Idea Wins 1st in CEO Business Competition

Nghia Thai and Nhu Y Mai won the top prize of $4,000 at the seventh annual CEO Business plan with their business, Chi-X.

RAPID CITY, SD  (Dec. 8, 2020) — The seventh annual CEO Business Plan Competition at South Dakota Mines was held virtually last week with first place going to Nghia Thai and Nhu Y Mai for their business, Chi-X.

The CEO competition is themed after the popular television program “Shark Tank,” which challenges entrepreneurs to present a business plan to a panel of expert judges.

Chi-X is a biomaterial company with a focus on fabricating advanced sponges to control bleeding during surgeries. Thai and Mai, both master’s students in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, take home a $4,000 prize.

Other winners are:

Second place and a $3,000 prize – Kim Yip Chiok and his business BioTape, which produces a medical bandage that increases the wound healing rate and reduces pain. Chiok is a doctoral student in the Department of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.   

  • Third place and a $2,000 prize - Kirstie Gildemeister for her business Itty Bitty Acre LLC. The company is working to produce proton exchange membrane electrocatalysts used in hydrogen fuel cell technology that will be affordable and reliable. She is a graduate student in the Department of Materials Engineering and Science.
  • Best Agricultural Plan and $1,000 prize – John Barbour and Allan Sipos, both chemical engineering majors, and Field Mitchell, a computer science major, for their business Ponica. The company sells aeroponic gardens that are designed to support sustainable, healthy, cost-effective living. The gardens will maximize yield by automatically watering and fertilizing on a basis determined by sensors and machine learning.

The competition is open to all West River high schools, as well as neighboring higher education institutions Black Hills State University, Western Dakota Tech, National American University, Chadron State College, Oglala Lakota College and Sinte Gleska University. Participants in the South Dakota Mines CEO Program get business plan training throughout the semester and receive assistance from the Small Business Development Center in preparing financial statements, as well as mentoring from local business leaders and South Dakota Mines’ Entrepreneurs-in-Residence.

Teams who compete in the South Dakota Mines CEO Program often take their business plans to compete statewide at the South Dakota Governor’s Giant Vision Awards. Mines students who have competed in the CEO Competition have gone on to win the Governor’s Giant Vision Award the last six years.

In the past, student business plans have ranged from nanostructures that increase surface area for materials inside LED bulbs to vortex generators.  

CEO Competition sponsors include Ascent Innovation, Big D Oil, Golden West Technology and Internet Solutions, Monument Health, South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development, South Dakota Mines Office of the President, Darren Haar, Sioux Steel Company and West River Electric Association.


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: Lynn Taylor Rick, (605) 394-2554, Lynn.TaylorRick@sdsmt.edu

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