On May 10th the TCNJ Physics Department held its annual spring picnic at Rosedale Park in Pennington. Bad weather the previous week forced a postponement and there was some drizzle that day as well, but those who came enjoyed games, food and conversation. The turnout by first year students was particularly high.
In last year’s Mayo Business Plan Competition, the Solar Divide team had a great idea, but they didn’t have the business acumen to back it up—and it cost them. They didn’t advance beyond the first round.
This year, like a phoenix rising, team members Nic Freschi and his business partner Cody Combs breathed new life into their existing concept and created a solid business plan that took home the biggest first-place prize pot in the competition’s five-year history: $30,000.
Freschi and Combs, both senior physics majors, along with 2015 finance and physics grad Christian Balevski, make up Solar Divide, LLC. Though they’re keeping a tight lid on the specs behind their technology while they work on patents, they’re calling it a new way to “do” solar. By devising a way to separate [read: divide] different wavelengths of sunlight, each can be put to work at its optimal efficiency thereby turning otherwise wasted heat energy into electricity. And the best part? They’re confident that their innovation can be easily retrofitted to existing solar farms to double their output.
Their ultimate goal—to approach big energy companies with their intellectual property and sell their ideas—is what won them the competition this year. The judges were impressed by their shift from a manufacturing model the previous year to a licensing model this year, mentioning that it showed solid knowledge of the market and how to get their foot in the door.
“We want to be a part of this transition away from fossil fuels and into clean energy,” says Balevski. “And after we succeed with this, we’ll keep moving forward,” he says.
For Freschi, who is majoring in philosophy along with physics, the win gives him the confidence to purse a childhood dream. “I’ve always wanted to be an inventor, but I never thought I was that type of person,” he says. “I want to create impact and do something that will be important on a global scale, and this is the best of both worlds.”
Combined with the winnings from the Mayo Business Plan Competition, Solar Divide has deals in place to raise nearly half of their $250,000 goal. With the funding, they’re working to secure an attorney and start the final patent process, and build a scaled-up prototype of their rethought solar panel so that potential investors—and buyers—can see it at work alongside a traditional solar field.
Combs stressed the impact the competition had on him. “The Mayo Business Plan Competition teaches you how to do it,” he says, referring to crafting an achievable plan. “If I want to start another start-up, I know what it takes. You think it’s impossible to do, but it’s literally just doing it. Just work at it.”
About the Mayo Business Plan Competition
The Mayo Business Plan Competition is designed to increase student appreciation for the challenge of developing a viable business. Through an iterative process the MBPC recognizes those students best able to articulate a plan that addresses these challenges. In recognition of both the time involved and difficulty of the task, the competition provides a substantial reward for the successful teams.
TCNJ students from all majors are welcome to participate. Students with ideas that translate into viable business products or services can come from virtually any school and major. Each team must be comprised of no less than two and no more than four current TCNJ students.
On Wednesday, April 6th, the TCNJ Physics Department inducted our newest members to the Sigma Pi Sigma honor society. In the photographs are Manesha Bandamede, Katie Boaggio, CarriEve Horner, Tim Osborn, Brianna Santangelo, Shreyas Shirodkar, Tyler Viducic, and Shannon Wesley. Benjamin Campos and Krishna Sheth were also elected but were unable to attend. Prof. AJ Richards gave a brief talk about the messages we have sent to possible extra-solar civilizations. As a TCNJ alumnus (class of 2007) and fellow Sigma Pi Sigma member, he also conducted the formal induction ceremony after welcoming remarks by Prof. Paul Wiita, a member of Sigma Pi Sigma for 44 years. As the number of majors has grown we have now switched from biannual to annual ceremonies to honor the highest achievers among our junior and senior classes (some of the latter were also inducted last year).
Mitchell Revalski, class of 2014, has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship in Astronomy. This three-year fellowship will support his work on outflows from Active Galactic Nuclei with Prof. D. Michael Crenshaw at Georgia State University. While still at TCNJ, Mitch was co-author on two papers with Dr. Wiita and several other students.
TCNJ Physics Majors, Brianna Santangelo and Shannon Wesley, did some outreach at the Young Women’s Conference in STEM at Princeton University. The conference is a chance for middle school and high school girls to discover more about careers in STEM fields, and many STEM employers and academic institutions set up booths to expose the attendees to some of the possibilities. The students and their faculty mentors, Dr. AJ Richards and Dr. Angela Capece, set up demonstrations to showcase the TCNJ physics program.