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Montgomery College Students Win Four of Five U.S. EPA “Make a Market Tech Challenge” Awards

Montgomery College Student giving a presentation
Montgomery College Student Rasheevan Nair

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced five winners of the Make a Market Tech Challengenew window. The five student teams received a total of $15,000 for their innovative market assessments for new technologies developed by EPA researchers. Four of the five winners were Montgomery College students. The 2023 winners of the Make a Market Tech Challenge: Esther Soon, first place ($6,000); Rasheevan Nair, second place ($3,000); and third place was shared by two MC students: Miguel Granados and Sena Hordoffa ($1,500 each).

“I found that this experience was very mind-opening in a way that we were learning by doing something instead of just reading from the textbook and answering quizzes. It was a very challenging experience to me as we had to think through many studies carried out by researchers and find compelling data to prove to the EPA that our technology would be successful and useful,” said Rasheevan Nair, one of the second-place MC students.

When EPA researchers invent new technologies, EPA’s Federal Technology Transfer Act program assists with patenting these new technologies and finding companies interested in licensing EPA’s products to put federally funded technology to use in real-word applications. EPA launched the Make a Market Tech Challenge to solicit innovative strategies for market assessments of patented and unlicensed EPA-developed technologies.

Through this challenge, students expanded their scientific and marketing skills by working with EPA-developed technologies in a hands-on business environment to scope out the best partnering strategy. EPA will use results from the students’ research to find partnerships for each of its water technologies, which will lead to practical application of these technologies for environmental and public health protection.

Montgomery College Professor Hoa Nguyen
Professor Hoa Nguyen

Montgomery College Professor Hoa Nguyen, business and economics department chair at the Rockville Campus, helped advise the students throughout the competition process as they took her Principles of Economics class last fall.

“Students got to apply economics concepts directly to business questions about market scope, commercial applications, and competition evaluation,” the professor said. “Students tackled a big market analysis one step at a time, so they did not feel overwhelmed. To keep up with the pace of the competition, students had to write up their own research about potential markets for the EPA's new technologies every week. I advised them regularly on the core theories but allowed them the freedom to be creative with their business solutions and ideas.”

According to the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, the challenge encouraged the next generation of entrepreneurs to develop new ideas for putting EPA research into the hands of its partners and community members and to ultimately help protect human health and the environment.

Nair, one of the MC students, said, “All in all, this experience was very good for me. I was able to gain skills that will be useful in my future career, such as market research, data analysis and time management. I would like to thank my professor, Dr. Hoa Nguyen, and the Business, Economics, Accounting, Computer Applications, and Hospitality Management Department for this amazing opportunity.”

One of the third-place students, Miguel Granados, said this had been his first experiential learning class. “It really helped us develop our writing and research skills, which are really valuable in the workplace. Participating in this challenge also helped me develop time management skills because I had other classes, and research can take a long time. We got a sneak peek of a real-life job because this is what researchers do,” Granados said.

MC Student Miguel
Montgomery College Student Miguel Granados

Professor Nguyen added: “This [honor] is solid proof that with the right guidance and support, our students have the commitment and skills to do high level business analysis… I hope they get more opportunities to grow and the recognition that they deserve.”

Below is the full list of winners:

First Place ($6,000)

  • Esther Soon, Montgomery College-Rockville: Selected Technology to Market: Water Contamination Detection Kit

Second Place ($3,000 each)

  • Rasheevan Nair, Montgomery College-Rockville: Selected Technology to Market: Water Contamination Detection Kit
  • Nathan Sojourner, Nash Benton, Kolin Dhamelia, Serena Bauer, Daniel Powers, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, Selected Technology to Market: Carbon Traps to Deactivate Halogen Containing Pollutants

Third Place ($1,500 each)

  • Miguel Granados, Montgomery College-Rockville: Selected Technology to Market: Water Contamination Detection Kit
  • Sena Hordoffa, Montgomery College-Rockville: Selected Technology to Market: Portable Cyanobacteria Detection Kit for Recreation and Drinking Water Supplies