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The Perfect Pitch

The 2020 virtual BEAR Innovation Competition, the interdisciplinary program supported by Will Abele ’61 and hosted by the U-Imagine Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies, boasted an exciting variety of student ideas and pitches this year.

Five students walked away with a monetary prize for their original ideas for new ventures that solve social or market problems, pitched to a panel of external judges.

Julia Ewing ’21 took home the second place prize for her pitch titled The Senator’s Daughter, about a unique event venue designed to be an anchor for Jefferson, Ohio. Athena Gainey ’20 and Hiyab Hiruy ’20 received third place for their pitch for Pactolus, a social enterprise addressing recidivism through employment.

Tommy Armstrong ’20, this year’s first place winner, is no stranger to the BEAR Innovation Competition. As a first-year student, Armstrong received the $1,000 “Ready, Set, Go” prize to produce a comedy musical film that later premiered at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville. The following year, Armstrong pitched another idea for a web series called High Education where he won the $2,500 second-place prize. He created the series during the Summer Fellows research program and recently released all 16 episodes.

This year, Armstrong took home the gold and received the coveted $3,500 first place prize for his pitch for a tragicomedy film about art, depression and the devil called The Artist Formerly Known as Lucifer.

“I feel so honored and lucky. The U-Imagine Center and (Entrepreneur-in-Residence) Maureen Cumpstone have been so helpful in developing my filmmaking and finding opportunities like this, Digital Spark, and great workshops,” Armstrong said.

Inspiration struck Armstrong for his latest idea several years ago during a routine dental cleaning (the best time to dissociate through art, according to Armstrong) about a super villain who becomes mortal.

“My idea soon developed into Lucifer possessing a teen and feeling all the nervousness and angst of a young adult, and looking for the most human remedy, which he finds, in art. Every episode, Lucifer tries a different medium of art and he’s always bad at it.”

Armstrong intends to use the cash prize to film and edit a polished pilot episode of his proposed show and then create a trailer, series poster and website to start entering the pilot into a series of competitions and festivals with the hope of it eventually being picked up by a distributor.

In addition to the top three winners, the competition also awarded a $2,000 “Ready, Set, Go” prize to psychology major Abbie Painter ’23 for her pitch for a performance coffeehouse to be hosted in the Schellhase Commons. Additionally, a $500 prize was awarded for the best oral presentation to David Schaeffer ’23 for his idea for a mobile application that creates and organizes grocery shopping lists.