Low-cost rocket engine startup wins the PNW Big Sell competition

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HAMMOND, Ind., and WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Three Purdue Foundry startups walked away with the top three awards during the PNW Big Sell competition Saturday (April 29) at Purdue University Northwest.

Alex Finch, co-founder of Tri-D Dynamics and graduate student in Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics, won first place and $5,000 at the annual business plan competition hosted by the Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center at Purdue University Northwest’s Hammond, Indiana, campus. The event draws competitors from across the nation.

Tri-D Dynamics is commercializing low-cost rocket engines that can be manufactured quickly through 3-D printing and other additive manufacturing processes.

“We have signed our first client and are looking to add more,” Finch said.

Finch is now automatically entered into the inX3 (formerly Innovation Showcase) competition June 13-16 in Indianapolis to compete for prizes totaling $100,000.

Taking second place and $2,000 was Scott Massey, co-founder of Hydro Grow LLC and a senior in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute. Hydro Grow is commercializing refrigerator-sized vegetable growing pods consumers can place in their homes.

Oliver Wendt, co-founder of Speak MODalities and Purdue assistant professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences, captured third place and $1,000. Speak MODalities is commercializing the SPEAKall!® and SPEAKmore!® apps to help children diagnosed with the autism spectrum or other communicative challenges.

All three startups have received assistance from Purdue Foundry, an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator at Purdue’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.

We had eight finalists who all had very strong presentations and top-notch business plans. It was very difficult to select the top awardees, but the three winners all had perfect or nearly perfect presentations,” said Mont Handley, event coordinator and associate director for the Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center. “They truly represent the best of the best in the entrepreneurial ecosphere.”

About Purdue University Northwest

Purdue University Northwest, a comprehensive regional university within the Purdue University system, has two Northwest Indiana campuses in Hammond and Westville. The university was established by the unification of the former Purdue University Calumet and Purdue University North Central. With more than 15,000 students enrolled last fall and nearly 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, Purdue Northwest is Indiana’s fifth-largest public university.

About Purdue Foundry

The Purdue Foundry is an entrepreneurship and commercialization accelerator in Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship whose professionals help Purdue innovators create startups. Managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, the Purdue Foundry was named a top recipient at the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Designation and Awards Program by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities for its work in entrepreneurship. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

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