Mines News

Release Date Monday, May 3, 2021

South Dakota Mines Student Team Wins $20,000 First Place Award at Governor’s Giant Vision Business Plan Competition

Kirstie Gildemeister (left) and Kelsey Fitzgerald are winners of the $20,000 first place award at 2021 Governor’s Giant Vision Business Plan Competition for their company, Hydrolyst LLC, which improves process of storing energy generated by solar and wind power.  


RAPID CITY, SD (May 3, 2021) — For the first time in university history, an all-student team from South Dakota Mines has won the open Governor's Giant Vision Business Competition. South Dakota Mines students Kirstie Gildemeister and Kelsey Fitzgerald won the 2021 Giant Vision award for their company, Hydrolyst LLC, which has the potential to greatly improve the effort to store energy generated by solar and wind power.

Their invention is a more efficient and robust system to split water into oxygen and hydrogen gas. It increases effectiveness of solar-powered hydrogen fuel cells, which can be used to store energy needed during peak demand. Gildemeister and Fitzgerald also won a 2021 Braun Inventor award, which will help them with the process of landing a patent for their idea.

“We are really excited and thankful for all the opportunities South Dakota Mines’ Office of Industrial Relations to help us commercialize our idea and help build it up. We both left jobs in industry to pursue this company and the help of the university has been instrumental in our success,” says Gildemeister, company CEO. Hydrolyst is now building a prototype on a small farm near Ellsworth Air Force Base that includes a solar array and hydrogen generation system which will showcase the technology.

Mines also placed well in the annual student version of the Giant Vision Competition. Biomedical engineering graduate students Nghia Thai and Nhu Y Mai took home 3rd place and a $3,000 prize for their business Chi-X. Their company fabricates advanced sponges to control bleeding during surgeries. Thai and Mai also won the Mines annual CEO Business Plan Competition in November 2020.

Mines undergraduate computer science majors Morgan Vagts and Debbie Liknes took home 4th place and a $2,000 prize for her company LAFDR, which is a new kind of dating app that uses memes to match like-minded couples.

The is the first time in seven years that a Mines team did not win the student version of the competition. It’s also the first year that a Mines student team won the open division.

“We’re proud of all of our students who exhibit the strong culture of entrepreneurship and innovation we are building on campus. Year after year, great ideas generated at Mines are turning into high-tech businesses that are transforming the state economy. We’re also thankful to the organizers of the Governor’s Giant Vision Competition for hosting this important event each year,” says Mines President Jim Rankin. 



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

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