A student team that’s figured out how to inject color into plastic items made by 3-D printers took the top prize at the UW-Madison’s annual G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition.

Spectrom wins $12,000 and free office space at University Research Park.

“Now we don’t have to work in my bedroom anymore,” said Taylor Fahey, 20, of Shakopee, Minnesota, who developed the color solution with Chase Haider, 23, of St. Paul, and Cedric Kovacs-Johnson, 22, of Chicago.

“It’s really exciting. I had to plug my nose and make sure I couldn’t breathe to know it isn’t a dream,” Fahey said.

Spectrom’s invention melts color into the plastic as it’s extruded. Fahey said other color devices on the market are costly and cannot be used with older 3-D printers, as Spectrom’s can.

This is the third student contest this year that Spectrom has won — in addition to the $10,000 Schoofs Prize for Creativity and the $2,500 Tong Prototype Prize — bringing the team’s total pot to nearly $25,000.

The money will be used to develop a basic model, then the company plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for manufacturing.

“Kickstarter has been very successful with 3-D printers, and hobbyists are really involved in Kickstarter. They’re the ones who’ve shown the most interest in the product already,” Haider said.

The Burrill $7,000 second prize went to SELA, whose medical device sprays anesthesia into the throat of a person who will undergo a procedure that involves looking into the back of the throat or inserting a tube down the throat.

The biomedical student team of Katherine Baldwin, 21, of St. Paul; James Dorrance, 22, of Rice Lake; Terah Hennick, 22, of Racine; and Alyssa Mitchell, 21, of Kimberly, developed the device at the request of an anesthesiologist at UW Hospital, the students said.

“It’s a real need in the field,” Hennick said.

The next steps will be to make a prototype that can be mass-produced, and to seek approval to market it from the Food & Drug Administration, Dorrance said.

Coride, a mobile app for finding ride-sharing partners from one city to another, won the $2,000 third prize.

AppSolute Innovations, a mobile event coordination app, won the $1,000 fourth prize.

Burrill contest director John Surdyk said the field of 35 teams is the second-largest since the program began in 1998. Ideas ranged from convenience foods made with native grains to custom golf tees to wound-healing bandages.

Participating students represented more than 40 majors, “from astrophysics to zoology,” Surdyk said.

He said 19 of the teams have created companies or taken steps to do so, either by hiring staff or making sales. That’s a big change from a few years ago.

“Entrepreneurship was more of a curiosity,” he said.

Matt Howard, co-founder of EatStreet, an online food ordering business, won the Burrill in 2011 and served as a judge this year.

“I can’t believe how far the competition has come,” Howard said. “I’m very impressed with all of the plans that I read. I wouldn’t want to go up against these people.

The daylong competition was held at the UW’s Grainger Hall.

Business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal

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