ASU entrepreneurs travel to Silicon Valley for innovation retreat

Trip marked end of eSeed Challenge’s inaugural year

April 8, 2016

Entrepreneurs from five Arizona State University student-led startups traveled to the promised land of startups, Silicon Valley, from March 31 to April 2. There they met with top-level professionals, toured startup companies and had the opportunity to pitch to successful entrepreneurs.

The trip marked the end of the eSeed Challenge’s inaugural year, an entrepreneurial competition open to all ASU students. Run by the Startup Center within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, the eSeed Challenge develops promising early stage student ventures, preparing them to secure funding and win competitions to support their startups. The five teams represented on the innovation retreat were all incubated within the eSeed Challenge, emerging as the top startups out of more than 25 competitors. The Prescott Fellows, representatives from the top five startups incubated in the Fulton Schools Startup Center's eSeed Challenge program, pose at YCombinator during their innovation retreat to Silicon Valley, April 1, 2016. Photo courtesy of Brent Sebold Download Full Image

The selected ventures were:

• Tech Dispatcher, led by aerospace engineering student Brandon Garrett and Co-founder Dallas Grantham

• PhysioCheck, led by biomedical engineering student John Templeton and Co-founder Connor Chilton

•, led by biomedical engineering student Susan Sajadi, computer systems engineering student Rex Blank and Co-founder Tim Bujnevicie

• Feromone Robotics, led by engineering students Miles Mabey and Corey Hulse and technological entrepreneurship and management student Alex Opstad

• ZingFo, led by computer science student Nikhil Kumar and Co-founders Butterfly Cherry and Kim Nolan

These top ventures and their representatives were dubbed the Prescott Fellows, in honor of Tom Prescott, former President and CEO of Align Technology Inc., and the eSeed Challenge’s lead benefactor. At the outset of the retreat, each venture had the opportunity to make an “investor style” pitch to Prescott to compete for entry into the upcoming Arizona Collegiate Venture Competition (ACVC) on April 8.

Tech Dispatcher claimed the prize and will compete against other ventures from ASU, as well as Northern Arizona University, Grand Canyon University and University of Arizona for $60,000 in cash prizes, scholarships and mentoring.

Going into the competition, team lead of Tech Dispatcher Brandon Garrett feels confident.

“We feel like we can take the win at ACVC, but there are some strong teams so we will definitely be preparing coming up to the event,” said Garrett.

Reflecting on the first year of eSeed, Startup Center director Brent Sebold said the strength of the teams on the retreat was a testament to the success of the program.

“The confidence we have in the ventures we brought on this trip alone speaks to how well this first year has gone,” said Sebold. “Another measure of success is the tight bond that developed between many of the startups and their assigned venture mentors. They’ve worked hard and really grown over the past year.”

Garrett also highlights the involvement of mentors as a reason for Tech Dispatcher’s success.

“eSeed definitely prepared us for this level of competition,” said Garrett. “Joan Morgen was our mentor through the program and really pushed us to the next level while providing constructive criticism and helping us define our message.”

The trip itself provided more opportunities for growth by immersing the entrepreneurs in startup culture.

“The experience really guided how we present our startup,” said ZingFo Co-founder Butterfly Cherry. “We had to say our 30-second pitch everywhere we visited. It was pretty cool to see how every venture’s pitch was refined in just one day.”

Garrett added: “It was really eye-opening. I’d almost compare it to a study abroad program. The culture isn’t as different as another country, but business-wise it’s a completely different landscape.”

In addition, the entrepreneurs rubbed shoulders with Silicon Valley movers and shakers such as Tim Draper, founder of Draper University, as well as leaders from the Fogarty Institute for Innovation and YCombinator. YCombinator, an organization aimed at rapidly developing early-stage startups, has funded more than 1,000 startups since 2005, including DropBox, Twitch, Reddit and Airbnb.

“It was really motivating,” says Cherry of meeting with a YCombinator Partner. “My biggest takeaway was to get our product out there as soon as possible, even if it is crap at the moment. This is important to quickly find out what is and isn't working.”

eSeed will kick off its next round in the fall 2016 semester. Looking to the future, Sebold hopes the program will attract more participation and looks forward to operating out of the Startup Center’s new facility, Generator Labs.

“I encourage all ASU students who have an idea to apply,” said Sebold. “The startup process is 1 percent conceptual and 99 percent hard work, but we’re ready to mentor and motivate those ready to put in that work.”

Apply to the eSeed Challenge; the deadline for applications is noon on April 29. For more information about the eSeed Challenge, attend the application workshop and information session April 15.

Pete Zrioka

Assistant director of content strategy, Knowledge Enterprise


Beat the heat while brushing up on music teaching and learning at the ASU Summer Music Institute

April 8, 2016

Summertime at ASU is noticeably quieter than during the school year, but look closely and you’ll see that learning still takes place all over campus. This is particularly apparent in the ASU School of Music, where music educators from Arizona and throughout the United States congregate throughout June and July to complete courses and workshops to further their knowledge of music education.

“The ASU School of Music is the place to be in the summer,” says Heather Landes, director of the school. “Our Summer Music Institute not only provides master’s students with necessary research and practice-based coursework, but also workshops and professional development opportunities for all teachers needing certification hours. Our summer community offers nurturing opportunities to explore application of one’s knowledge and musical experiences.” Students in the ASU School of Music's Summer Music Institute participate in a workshop. Photo by Jesse Rathgeber Download Full Image

Known as the Summer Music Institute, the program is made up of one-week, two-week and three-week courses and workshops that cover a wide range of musical subjects. The broad class selection includes topics such as songwriting and steel drums, music and technology, string and instrumental pedagogy, guitar and popular music labs, music in early childhood and all levels of Kodály and Orff courses.

“The Summer Music Institute has two main purposes: to provide summers-only master’s degree study for teachers who are busy during the school year and want to fit it into their schedules, and to provide professional development for teachers who want to enrich their practice or who need recertification hours,” says Sandy Stauffer, coordinator of the Summer Music Institute and professor of music education in the School of Music. Classes and workshops are available with anywhere from as few as one credit (15 hours) to as many as four credits (65 hours).

Karen Scott, a School of Music alum and teacher in the Phoenix Union High School district, needed teacher certification hours in a hurry, and was pleased that the program could cater to her needs. “The professors and teachers have been so very knowledgeable and supportive,” says Scott. “I have learned to expand my creativity in how I teach students and to give them more choices in what they learn.”

Credit hours and recertification are not the only reasons to take these classes, however. “This program is a great chance for current teachers to get fresh new ideas and inspiration for the upcoming school year and help recharge their batteries,” says Margaret Schmidt, one of the music education faculty in the School of Music.

Jana Gutenson, a teacher in the Chandler Unified School District, was looking for professional development hours for recertification that would apply directly to her area of teaching. “As a teacher entering my 20th year of teaching music, it was inspiring to be actively engaged in music learning,” says Gutenson. “What began as a pursuit of professional development hours ended with a great sense of renewal and inspiration.”

The teachers for the Summer Music Institute classes are ASU faculty and specialists from other states, including Rhode Island, Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois, as well as Arizona music educators who are exceptional in their fields. Each year, some courses stay the same and others are changed or added, depending on the needs of the participants.

Shannon Carrion Acevedo, who is working on her master’s degree and teaching certification, has taken classes through the Summer Music Institute two years in a row. “I took Kodály I my first year, and the class was like you’re in an actual classroom, so I could see what it would be like once I started teaching,” says Carrion Acevedo. “I learned so much during that session that I came back this year for Kodály II and Orff I.”

These courses are also ideal for those who are looking for jobs in the field and want a leg up on their interviews. “Taking Orff level 1 last summer was the main thing that helped me get hired at my first job,” says Kathy Overall, a general music and chorus teacher in Gilbert, Arizona, who took classes through the Summer Music Institute because of the connection to all local public schools.

Perhaps the most powerful thing about these courses is the positive effect they have on the participants. “My favorite thing about being involved in the Summer Music Institute is seeing the excitement of those who take the classes,” says Stauffer. “It really changes their ideas and their teaching lives.”

For more information about the classes available summer 2016, visit — check back often to find newly offered courses. The website is updated regularly with new courses. 

Media Contact:
Heather Beaman
Communications Liaison