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WVU student wins chance to pitch clean energy technology to U.S. Department of Defense

David Smith and Carl Irwin discuss pitch strategies
David Smith (l) discusses pitch strategies with Carl Irwin, director of WVU’s TransTech Energy Research and Business Development Program.

Morgantown, W.Va. -- Thanks to connections made by West Virginia University’s College of Business and Economics, an MBA student is pitching new technology—a wireless electric power system potentially adaptable to charging phone, computer, drone and electric car batteries—to two federal agencies. The relationship has also inspired a business to move to West Virginia from Alabama.

David Smith pitched the inductive transmission technology at the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2018 Allegheny Cleantech University Prize Collegiate Competition. Smith is the first WVU student to participate in a regional CUP event, which is held annually during Carnegie Mellon University’s Energy Week. The event provides the next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs the chance to obtain funding and educational support for commercializing their innovations. 

He is the liaison between WVU and Square Line Products, the company that sought help defining industries in which they could place their products. Over the course of several months, WVU recommended three areas of manufacturing: electric vehicle charging, drone charging and personal device charging. Steve Cutright, director of B&E’s BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, was instrumental in developing the partnership between Smith and Square Line Power.

David Smith pitch winner Department of Defense TransTech

WVU MBA student David Smith will pitch new technology to the Dept. of Defense.


Smith’s presentation and working prototype caught the eye of the U.S. Department of Defense, who invited him to pitch the technology at DOE’s National Cleantech University Prize Competition in June for a chance to win $35,000.

“Being recognized by the DoD and invited to pitch Square Line Power’s prototype at the National Cleantech University Prize Competition is an excellent opportunity,” Smith said. That event is scheduled for June 27-28 at Rice University in Houston.

In announcing the selection, DoD representative Paul Jaffe said further development of Square Line’s prototype could potentially allow soldiers to recharge equipment and drones without bulky power cables that are prone to failure. 

After Smith and WVU concluded recommendations for Square Line, the company has committed to relocating its company from Alabama to West Virginia so that it is closer to WVU and the resources the university offers. While West Virginia continues to look to attract new business opportunities to the state, WVU’s experiential learning curriculum is developing executive-level leadership to its MBA candidates that are assisting businesses in relocation and formation in West Virginia — and students are foremost in this business equation.

Smith has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from WVU’s Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

One of Square Line’s three partners holds a patent on inductive transmission circuitry for wireless lighting fixtures. Smith is working with Square Line Power to develop a business model for moving the technology forward. 

To help Smith prepare for the Allegheny CUP Competition, WVU’s TransTech Energy Research and Business Development Program organized three mentoring sessions focusing on strategies for making an effective investor pitch. 

Smith underscored the benefits of serving as Square Line’s business development officer and interacting with potential investors and clients at the Allegheny CUP Competition. “Learning to develop a startup company and pitching a new technology are invaluable experiences,” he said.

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sf/4/20/18

CONTACT:  Sandra Fallon
TransTech Energy Research and Business Development Program
304.293.6456; sfallon@mail.wvu.edu

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