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A trio of  Titans have earned WiSys Carl E. Gulbrandsen Innovator of the Year, an honor recognizing them for exemplary contributions to Wisconsin innovation.

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh senior Jessica Tarter of Sommerset, senior Parker Schmidt of Combined Locks and 2019 graduate Macall Hill of Darien teamed up on a project last year centered around a product designed to improve survival of honey bee colonies in cold weather. The effort by the three business administration majors was through a joint project by the UW Oshkosh Alta Resources Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and WiSys, a nonprofit dedicated to helping inventors protect their intellectual property.

The goal of the project was for the designated WiSys entrepreneur team—that’d be Tarter, Schmidt and Hill—to review a variety of WiSys technologies and select one as the basis of a startup company. After market research on each, they selected a product called the Bee Shield, originally invented by UW-Superior biology professor and apiary manager Edward Burkett and friend and colleague Kenn Raihala. The Bee Shield was created as a way to prevent delicate honey bees from perishing in winter in climates like Wisconsin.

“I was shocked at first, then I felt really honored,” Tarter said. “There are a lot of great people who work with or at WiSys and I feel very grateful for the award.”

Tarter, Schmidt and Hill met with a series of advisory mentors from a variety of industries, including manufacturers, accountants and marketers. They also formed their company, called Hive Central, and started up a pilot program and e-commerce website. About 50 beekeepers tested four shields, giving insight into what improvements needed to be made.

“The students took hold of an opportunity and ran with it, showing off their incredible innovative and entrepreneurial spirit,” said WiSys President Arjun Sanga.

The Carl E. Gulbrandsen Innovator of the Year Award is presented to a UW System faculty, staff member or student making exemplary contributions as an innovator. The award was created to honor the former managing director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, who supported WiSys throughout his 16-year tenure.

Other Innovator of the Year winners for 2020 are UW-Parkside associate professor Francis “Frannie” Mann and UW-Eau Claire associate professor Elizabeth Glogowski.

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