Pitching competition will highlight Iowa State innovation, entrepreneurship at Iowa State Fair


Rebecca Lyons, 2019 graduate in agricultural education, created the company Lunchsox while she was a student at Iowa State. Lyons and more than 150 other entrepreneurs will pitch off at the ISU exhibit at the Iowa State Fair this month. Photo by Christopher Gannon. Larger image.

AMES, Iowa — More than 150 Iowa State University entrepreneurs will pitch their ideas to visitors at the ISU exhibit during this month’s Iowa State Fair.

The exhibit, “The Great Iowa State Pitch Off: STANDING InnOVATION!,” will be in the Varied Industries building at the Iowa State Fair, held Aug. 8-18.

The theme of Iowa State’s fair exhibit is part of an ongoing university mission to cultivate a campuswide culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, and to provide resources and support for students, faculty and staff to turn their ideas into reality.

“We are showcasing the energy and creativity of our students, and how that results in innovation and entrepreneurial projects that impact Iowa communities and businesses,” said Carole Custer, director of the Office of University Marketing. “Iowa State has never before had daily events of this magnitude at the state fair.”

Pitching to win

Students from every ISU college, as well as ISU Extension and Outreach and recent alumni — more than 150 participants in total — will compete in the pitch-offs, which will occur from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Aug. 8-15. There will be 14 pitches – two per hour – every day. Each entrepreneur will have up to five minutes for their presentation, followed by a five-minute Q&A with the audience. Fairgoers visiting the ISU exhibit will vote for participants to move to the semifinals by dropping a soybean into a Mason jar.

From the daily pitches, 56 semifinalist pitches will emerge to compete in front of a panel of judges Aug. 16-17 in the Iowa State exhibit. There will be four semifinalist pitches per hour.

Seven winning pitches will be announced at 1 p.m. Aug. 18, the last day of the fair, at the ISU exhibit. ISU President Wendy Wintersteen and Senior Vice President and Provost Jonathan Wickert will present awards to the winners. “Best in show” will receive a $5,000 award.

The ISU fair exhibit will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Approximately 350 volunteers will help out at the ISU exhibit over the course of the fair. When students aren’t pitching, fairgoers will be able to watch videos showcasing students pitching over the past year, highlights of how each college advances entrepreneurship and innovation and submissions from the “Pitch Me ISU” contest — an opportunity for undergraduate students to share their world-changing idea if time and money were no issue. One submission will be chosen for a $1,000 award.

In addition, the exhibit will showcase Iowa State innovations – one highlight from each college, as well as Extension and Outreach and the University Library. ISU alumni innovators and entrepreneurs will be able to enter their company name and contact information to keep up-to-date on opportunities to mentor, network and collaborate with ISU entrepreneurship programs and initiatives.

“Fairgoers will get to witness firsthand what happens when our university and the state of Iowa invests in the next generation,” said Karen Kerns, entrepreneur-in-residence for the ISU President's Initiative on Entrepreneurship. “And Iowa State students will see that they can make a difference right now. You don’t have to be 40 to make an impact on the world.”

Kerns describes innovation as “the capacity to imagine and create in a novel way,” and entrepreneurship as “the capacity to capitalize on that innovation to create opportunities for yourself and others.”

Athletic trophies, apparel, ticket drawings and more 

State fair tattoos

A volunteer at Iowa State's exhibit in the
Varied Industries Building applies a Cyclone
tattoo during the Iowa State Fair in 2016.
Photo by Christopher Gannon. Larger image.

Visitors will see athletic trophies from the past year and receive football posters and schedule cards. Volunteers will apply temporary waterless Iowa State tattoos. Visitors can also enter drawings for:

  • Tickets for the Nov. 23 Iowa State vs. University of Kansas football game
  • Tickets for any Cyclone volleyball match of the 2019 season
  • $25 ISU Book Store gift card
  • ISU Alumni Association annual membership

Four winners will be announced daily.

The ISU Book Store will again be part of the Iowa State exhibit. Fairgoers can expect a wide variety of Iowa State merchandise, gifts and apparel, including new Farm Strong T-shirts and new fall game day gear.

Check off your ‘bucket list’ with 4-H at the fair

ISU Extension and Outreach has a “bucket” list for fairgoers this year: a to-do list that adds Iowa State pride into a day at the fair. Search for red five-gallon buckets at venues around the fairgrounds, each indicating ISU Extension and Outreach events and places to check off the list.

Several bucket list items can be checked off on Friday, Aug. 9, as Cy competes against other college mascots in a grape stomp at Grandfather’s Barn. ISU Extension weed scientists will hold their annual weed identification contest Friday morning on the Agriculture Building lawn.

4-H Day on the Grand Concourse, also Aug. 9, is a time to learn about all things 4-H, receive a sunscreen stick, and take a photo with inflatable Cy. 4-H is headquartered at Iowa State and available in all 99 counties.

Nearly 2,000 4-H members will exhibit 5,000 livestock entries in the livestock buildings, and 4-H’ers will have 4,500 contest entries on display in the 4-H Exhibits Building. The colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Liberal Arts and Sciences will award scholarships to selected 4-H’ers. Photo frames at Grandfather’s Barn, Discovery Garden and outside the 4-H Exhibits Building are reminders of the connection these venues have to Iowa State.

Special events include 4-H Healthy Living Day on Aug. 10; Invent STEM on Aug. 11; Iowa 4-H Global Citizenship Day on Aug. 15; and the Iowa 4-H Hall of Fame induction program Aug. 18.

ISU veterinarians staying on top of animal health

Three veterinarians from the College of Veterinary Medicine will oversee the health of all animals at the fair. They are veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine assistant professor Dr. Troy Brick, clinical assistant professor Dr. Rachel Friedrich and postdoctoral research associate Dr. Megan Hindman.

Allysa Koethe, Kacey Leigh Klemesrud, Rachael Ostrem and Mikalah Smith, all fourth-year veterinary medicine students, will assist the veterinarians.