2023 Finalists and Winners


David Caldwell



Hometown: Boone, NC

Major: Computer Information Systems

Class: Sophomore

Imagine a time in the United States when a once-in-a-generation investment plan for improving our nation's infrastructure is approved and ready for execution – a plan that will change the future of our roads, bridges, transit systems, railways, and so much more. Well, that time is NOW. With over $1 trillion in approved spending by the Biden Administration, the money is here. However, there is one MASSIVE problem: we don't have enough people to do the work. There is an estimated labor shortage of 650,000+ construction workers, and an expected 1/3 of our labor force is set to retire by 2031. So what do we do?

My company, Caldwell Bros Excavation, is readying the workforce who will BUILD and REBUILD our nation's infrastructure for generations to come. We will set a new industry standard for training and safety on the job site and equipment and place students directly into jobs. Through seat time, focused training on a controlled site, and real work experience in the field, we will create a unified training system to alleviate much of the headache of hiring workers by saving the company time, money, and resources. We are building a tangible and scalable program available to all demographics through various accessible financing options and scholarships. As an experienced operator, Veteran, and student, I am on a mission to make construction sexy by building the healthiest and most efficient workforce that has ever existed.



Hometown: Huntersville, NC

Major: Finance and Banking

Class: Senior


As a finance and banking major, I appreciate the critical role financial literacy plays in our society. Numerous individuals aspire to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for prudent savings and investments. Yet, they encounter obstacles such as time constraints or the overwhelming complexities of initiating this journey. In light of this, I propose developing a mobile application that offers a structured and user-friendly educational platform, guiding users through the intricacies of sound financial investments.

This innovative app imparts financial wisdom through step-by-step interactive modules replicating real-world currency markets. By employing these simulated environments, prospective investors can understand financial strategies and operations comprehensively, thus equipping them with the confidence and knowledge required before committing their actual capital. Furthermore, the app aims to empower users by providing the option to transition seamlessly from simulated investments to live trading, allowing them to apply their newfound skills with real funds. This holistic approach enhances financial literacy and offers a practical avenue for users to directly invest from the app once they have built the requisite confidence and expertise.

The overarching objective of this initiative is to augment the prevalence of financial literacy across the United States. By doing so, we aim to substantially increase the proportion of individuals actively preparing for retirement. This idea is my dedication to facilitating the empowerment of individuals to secure their financial futures.


Hebron Cole


Hometown: Fairview, NC

Major: Supply Chain Management

Class: Senior


The Desta insulated cooler backpack is your ultimate solution for maintaining the perfect temperature for your food and beverages during outdoor activities. Whether you're at the beach, hiking, enjoying sports events, or any adventure, the Desta backpack's cutting-edge insulation technology ensures your items stay colder or hotter for longer. Plus, it boasts extra padding for enhanced comfort.

What truly distinguishes this brand is its commitment to making a positive impact. A portion of the profits goes towards supporting children and families in Ethiopia as well as local communities in the United States. With its top-notch quality and distinctive design and colors, the Desta Bag stands out from the rest.

Exciting news on the business front!  I'm delighted to announce that I received the first shipment of the Desta Bag on October 9, 2023, and it is now available on Amazon. Also, I have received my first order! Even more thrilling, you can find the Desta Bag at a King Street shop starting on October 10, 2023.


Ethan Collias


Hometown: Kings Mountain, NC

Major: Business Management

Class: Sophomore


I am an App State Team Sunergy member with expertise in mechanical engineering and a passion for classic cars. I've won national awards for restoring vehicles like a 1973 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, four 1974 Bricklin SV-1s, a 1985 Porsche 944, a 1987 Chevrolet Corvette, and a 1992 Jeep Wrangler Sahara, transformed into a Jurassic Park replica. I plan to merge these passions by creating an electric classic car conversion business. This venture will specialize in converting vintage luxury and sports cars into electric models efficiently and meticulously. The result will be clean energy, low-maintenance, exotic vehicles, ready for customers to enjoy within six to nine months, free from classic car reliability issues. My confidence in this idea stems from my automotive restoration skills and connections at App State's Team Sunergy.


Josh Derienzo

Joshua DeRienzo

Hometown: Charlotte, NC 

Major: Business Management; Sustainable Business Concentration

Class: Senior

Say goodbye to dull, lifeless lawns of the past. NativeScape is leading the charge in the shift towards vibrant landscapes that both enhance your home's aesthetic appeal and promote ecological health. In a world where greenwashing, misinformation, and technical challenges can be daunting, NativeScape emerges as the solution, redefining the concept of an ideal lawn.

At NativeScape, we specialize in crafting awe-inspiring home landscapes using native plants and sustainable techniques. Our mission is clear: to offer homeowners an outdoor sanctuary that not only pleases the eye but also serves as an ecological haven, attracting native pollinators and supporting wildlife such as hummingbirds, bumble bees, and monarch butterflies.

How do we work our magic? It all begins with a personalized consultation. Our team of experts collaborates closely with you to create a plan that incorporates native plants perfectly suited to your local climate.

Once the plan is perfected to your satisfaction, our dedicated NativeScape team springs into action to bring your vision to life. But our commitment doesn't end with installation. We offer ongoing maintenance services to ensure your landscape thrives and continues to contribute to the local ecosystem's well-being.

Traditional landscaping methods often harm the environment with non-native plants, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides. However, with NativeScape, you're not just getting a visually stunning landscape; you're investing in a healthier world for us all. Join us in transforming your landscape, and together, let's usher in a brighter and more sustainable future. 


Austin Liebgott



Hometown: Greensboro, NC

Major: Industrial Design

Class: Senior

Alma was created in response to the staggering 80 million pounds of food wasted annually in the United States. Our mission at Alma is twofold: to minimize food waste and promote eco-conscious consumption habits, all while reducing individual carbon footprints.

How do we achieve this? Alma's innovative design incorporates two key chambers. The lower cooling chamber utilizes the age-old concept of evaporative cooling, requiring no electricity to keep your produce fresh. Meanwhile, the upper ripening chamber takes advantage of the moisture generated through evaporative cooling to establish an ideal high-humidity environment for ripening produce. This process encourages the natural production of ethylene gas, a ripening agent.

What sets Alma apart is our commitment to sustainability. We've meticulously selected materials for Alma's construction, opting for earth-friendly choices such as earthenware, borosilicate glass, and natural rubber.

By incorporating Alma into your daily routine, you'll transform your grocery shopping habits. Placed conveniently on your countertop, Alma serves as a constant reminder of your fresh produce inventory, helping you make intentional choices. Correct usage of Alma translates to reduced food waste, increased savings, a smaller carbon footprint, and, perhaps most importantly, a more enjoyable culinary experience with tastier produce. 


Kristina Moore


Hometown: Statesville, NC

Major: Management

Class: Junior

ArtConnection is a pioneering website that aims to revolutionize the way artists and businesses collaborate in the evolving landscape of creative entrepreneurship. It serves as a dynamic marketplace where local artistic talent meets the strategic needs of businesses seeking unique and customized artwork. Here's an overview of what sets ArtConnection apart:

Empowering Artists:  ArtConnection empowers artists by providing them with a platform to showcase their portfolios. This enables artists to gain visibility and recognition for their work.

Facilitating Collaboration:  The platform facilitates direct and meaningful collaborations between artists and businesses. It breaks down barriers, making it easier for businesses to discover unique talent that aligns with their vision.

Community Building: ArtConnection is not just about transactions; it's about cultivating a vibrant community where creativity thrives. This fosters authentic and bespoke artwork that can set businesses apart.

Competitions: To nurture this ecosystem, ArtConnection hosts periodic competitions. These competitions provide artists with a stage to shine and allow businesses to discover fresh perspectives and talent.

Secure Payment System: The platform incorporates a secure payment system, ensuring that financial transactions are trustworthy and hassle-free for all users.

Integrated Project Management Tools: ArtConnection also offers integrated project management tools. These tools streamline the collaboration process, making it easier for artists and businesses to work together effectively.

Robust Rating System: To enhance user trust, ArtConnection has a robust rating system. Users can leave feedback and ratings, helping others make informed decisions when choosing collaborators.

In summary, ArtConnection is not just a platform; it's a movement that celebrates the fusion of art and commerce. It provides a space where artists can thrive and where businesses can access unique artwork that aligns with their vision. The platform's commitment to community-building, competitions, secure transactions, and integrated tools makes it a valuable resource for both artists and businesses in the creative entrepreneurship space.



Maja Nikolich


Hometown: Roswell, GA

Major: Management

Class: Senior

We aim to revolutionize parking in Boone! Are you tired of the hassle of paying for parking every single time you visit Boone's public parking areas? Our innovative idea will make your parking experience seamless and efficient, benefiting students, residents, and even tourists.

Our concept revolves around introducing a comprehensive parking pass system that offers unmatched convenience. Here's how it works:

No More Tedious Payments: Say goodbye to the tedious process of paying for parking each time you park. Our solution streamlines the entire experience.

Online Pass Purchase: Residents of Boone can easily purchase a parking pass online. These passes come at a fixed cost and are available for different durations.

Flexible Subscription Option: We're considering a subscription-based model for even more flexibility. Like canceling your Netflix subscription, you can cancel your parking pass if needed.

Varied Pass Durations: Choose from six-month or one-year pass durations. We're also exploring the possibility of a special visitor pass tailored to tourists staying in Boone.

Convenient Pass Delivery: Your pass will be delivered right to your doorstep, resembling a sleek app card for easy access.

Efficient Scanning: In public parking areas across Boone, we propose the installation of state-of-the-art scanners next to payment boxes.

Fairness for All: This system won't remove options for visitors or residents without passes. They can still pay for parking for a specified number of hours.

Preventing Overnight Parking: To prevent residents from using parking lots as overnight spots, we've implemented a 5-hour limit.

Enforcement and Fairness: Our system ensures fairness for all. Parking enforcement personnel will have access to scan passes and issue tickets to those exceeding the time limit, just like non-pass holders. However, pass holders can return and scan their pass if they need more than 5 hours.

Our vision is to enhance your parking experience, making it convenient, fair, and hassle-free. Join us in transforming Boone's parking system for the better. 


Maria Ruiz


Hometown: Bostic, NC

Major: Management

Class: Junior


SparkRoads: Igniting the Future of Sustainable Transportation

SparkRoads is a groundbreaking innovation that merges creativity, viability, and scalability to transform the future of sustainable transportation. It leverages the kinetic energy generated on roadways to power electric vehicles (EVs) in a visionary and pragmatic manner.

Creativity: SparkRoads incorporates specially designed road surfaces equipped with embedded piezoelectric materials that convert the kinetic energy generated by passing vehicles into electricity. As EVs drive over these road segments, the pressure and movement trigger the conversion, generating clean energy directly from the road.

Viability: The viability of SparkRoads lies in its dual benefits. It not only provides a constant source of renewable energy for EVs but also helps fund road maintenance and infrastructure improvements through the sale of excess energy to the grid. By creating a sustainable revenue stream, SparkRoads reduces the financial burden on governments and taxpayers for road upkeep.

Scalability: SparkRoads is designed for scalability. Initially implemented on highways and high-traffic urban streets, its modular technology can be retrofitted onto existing roads and easily integrated into new construction projects. The model's scalability extends beyond national borders, making it an ideal solution for countries looking to enhance their infrastructure and reduce carbon emissions.

SparkRoads isn't just an idea; it's a practical and scalable solution for accelerating the global transition to electric vehicles. It transforms roads into clean energy sources, reducing infrastructure costs and fostering sustainability. This vision signifies not just innovation but a pivotal step towards a greener, more sustainable future.

Our vision is to enhance your parking experience, making it convenient, fair, and hassle-free. Join us in transforming Boone's parking system for the better.


Matthias Von Feilitsch



Hometown: Amissville, VA

Major: Business Management

Class: Senior

Individuals grapple with a choice when using the internet: convenience or privacy. MidRoot emerges as the answer.

Our first product is a VPN that not only shields user data but also dissects it, removing any personal identifiers while offering an easy-to-understand analysis for the user to see. It empowers users with a detailed report showcasing the nature of data being taken, its destination, potential collectors, and the implications of such transfers. Crucially, users gain the ability to decide: is the convenience of a service worth the data it gathers?

MidRoot goes beyond mere protection. It alerts users to malicious undertakings, such as concealed cryptocurrency mining, unauthorized data extraction, and more, granting the user autonomy to thwart such intrusions, to see where they may be coming from, and what service may have been the corrupting force.

However, what distinguishes MidRoot in an industry teeming with various security solutions is its unwavering commitment to transparency. Everything, from its code server configurations to financial operations, is accessible to the public. This pioneering approach ensures users of MidRoot's dedication to data protection free from covert data monetization.

MidRoot's innovation addresses a pressing and growing issue while promising scalability. As devices proliferate and data becomes even more coveted, the need for a solution that offers insight, control, and transparent security will only intensify. With MidRoot, users no longer need to trade privacy for convenience; they can seamlessly enjoy both.