Business & Government

Sixth Annual Aggie PITCH Awards McFerrin Cup, Cash Prizes

Twenty Aggie-led startups competed in the only university-wide business pitch competition.
By Lara Robertson, McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship at Texas A&M University April 25, 2024

Cosmic Leap Foundation founders Rachelle Pedersen and Natasha Wilkerson with their prize checks from the Aggie PITCH competition.
Cosmic Leap Foundation founders Rachelle Pedersen and Natasha Wilkerson won third place and People’s Choice in the current student division of Aggie PITCH. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to helping teachers create transformative learning experiences through the lens of space exploration.

McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship


The McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship hosted its sixth annual Aggie PITCH April 15, awarding nearly $30,000 to Aggie-led startups. Open to both current and former students, Aggie PITCH is the only university-wide business pitch competition at Texas A&M and seeks to identify the best Aggie business pitches from across industries and sectors. 

For the 2024 event, a total of 20 startups were selected to compete for the coveted McFerrin Cup and a share of nearly $30,000 in prize money. Split into three divisions — Full Pitch for both current and former students and Elevator Pitch open to both — the competition gives startup founders the opportunity to pitch their business in a fast-paced format to a panel of anonymous judges and an audience of students, professionals, mentors, possible investors and fellow Aggie entrepreneurs. 

In the Full Pitch divisions, 10 teams were each given eight minutes for their pitch. The Elevator Pitch competitors were given a one-minute allotment for their pitches. Although the anonymous panel of judges was tasked with ranking and selecting the winners of the Full Pitch divisions, audience members were invited to take part and cast their vote to select for the winners of the Elevator Pitch Division, as well as a brand-new People’s Choice Award in both Full Pitch divisions.

ElastaScan claimed first place in the Full Pitch Division for current students and was awarded a McFerrin Cup and $7,500. The startup addresses the issue of ineffective physical therapy treatments for neck and back pain via a wearable device that provides real-time monitoring of muscle activation during therapy sessions, offering precise feedback to optimize exercise effectiveness and enhance rehabilitation outcomes. 

“It shows that the work we’ve done and the results we’ve shown have really gone somewhere and shows that we have traction,” said Anish Easwaran ’25, a biomedical engineering major. “It allows us to move forward and get some more opportunities, especially with this profile, we can really take this next step.”

Richard Balbin ’25, also a biomedical engineering major said the prize money allows the team to invest more in the technology.

The founders of ElastaScan with their first-place check of $7,500 in the Aggie PITCH competition.
ElastaScan won the first place prize of $7,500 in the Full Pitch Division for current students. The startup addresses ineffective physical therapy treatments for neck and back pain via a wearable device that monitors muscle activation during therapy sessions.

McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship

“As we mentioned in our pitch, we’re currently limited to one application now, so we can move to the other parts of the body [with this funding],” he said.

Unifi Technologies, which manufactures and sells robot pedestals and other related hardware, took home a total of $9,000 and the McFerrin Cup for first place in the Full Pitch Division for former students, as well as the People’s Choice Award for the same division.

“It’s beyond humbling. It’s very self-assuring to know that people like the idea, like the product. But more than anything, it means the world that the folks in the room thought it was worthy,” said Unifi Technologies founder Tanner Hilton ’16. “Just being here with these other people with such amazing products and pitches themselves, it means a lot to me.”

As to why he founded Unifi Technologies, Hilton, who majored in industrial distribution said, “I sell the robots for my day job, and customers kept asking me ‘What do I mount this thing on?’ And I asked my competitors originally to build the thing that I ended up making. Nobody would do it, so I got backed in a corner and said, ‘I’m just gonna do it.’ So, we made a product that customers were begging for.”

The second People’s Choice Award, designated for the Full Pitch Division for current students, was awarded to Cosmic Leap Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education with a mission to empower educators to create transformative learning experiences through the lens of space exploration, who also claimed third place in the division.  

President and CEO Natasha Wilkerson ’09, ’21, ’24 and Rachelle Pedersen ’21, ’24 are enrolled in the School of Education and Human Development, pursuing their doctorate degrees in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in engineering education. Wilkerson also received her undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from Texas A&M and both earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.

Wilkerson founded an after-school STEM program for low-income middle schools in San Antonio in 2014 to motivate and inspire at-risk kids, which led to the formation of Cosmic Leap Foundation. 

“Through the support of an incredible team, we now reach 370 schools worldwide,” Wilkerson said. “And while we know our programs have a proven track record to not only inspire kids but prepare them for STEM pathways, building a nonprofit has been a long and tiring journey.”

“But winning third place — and especially People’s Choice — at Aggie PITCH, showed us how many people believed in our mission,” she said. “Rachelle and I met so many incredible entrepreneurs and potential partners who want to amplify and support our efforts in ways we couldn’t imagine. I feel like this competition is a launching point for us to take things to the next level!”

Cosmic Leap Foundation plans to use the $5,000 prize money to upgrade its Cosmic Educator’s Portal to include more curriculum and training resources for their network of more than 500 educators. Having previously used personal funding, their winnings will now cover the expenses to maintain the website and technology tools to make the portal a continued reality and amplify their efforts to support teachers running STEM programming in more than 300 schools. 

“Aggie PITCH shows us year-in and year-out that Aggies ARE entrepreneurs,” said Blake Petty ’98, executive director of the McFerrin Center. “The Aggie entrepreneurial spirit is woven throughout and across our vast network of former and current students from all disciplines and in all industries. This event is always a great reminder for myself and our team that Aggie entrepreneurs are engineers, teachers, artists, scientists and more. No matter the idea being pitched, no matter the product being developed, entrepreneurship is accessible and attainable, and we’re honored that Aggie PITCH gets to showcase a sample of the innovative and impactful services and products developed by Aggies.”

Launched in 2018 by the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship and held annually, with the exception of 2020, Aggie PITCH serves as a platform to display the exceptional startups being developed by current and former students of Texas A&M. Ventures that compete at Aggie PITCH receive exposure to possible investors, mentors, partners and more. In addition, Aggie PITCH serves as a networking event that allows Aggie entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, current and former students to gather, make connections and support one another as entrepreneurs. 

Finalists’ ventures at this year’s Aggie PITCH represent a variety of industries including education, medical, manufacturing, consumer products and energy technology, among others, and are now admitted into an exclusive group of startup founders who are eligible to represent Texas A&M University at national and global entrepreneurial competitions.

Tanner Hilton making his presentation before an audience at the Aggie PITCH competition.
Tanner Hiilton of Unifi Technologies presents his product during the Aggie PITCH event. Hilton’s company, which manufactures and sells robot pedestals and other related hardware, took home a total of $9,000 and the McFerrin Cup for first place in the Full Pitch Division for former students, as well as the People’s Choice Award for the same division.

McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship


2024 Aggie PITCH Winners

Full Pitch Division | Current Students
1st Place ($7,500 – sponsored by StaffDNA): ElastaScan [Kaushik Avadhanula ’25, Richard Balbin ’25, Anish Easwaran ’25]
2nd Place ($5,000): EHR Buddy [Nathaniel Fernandes ’24]
3rd Place ($3,500): Cosmic Leap Foundation [Rachelle Pedersen ’21 ’24, Natasha Wilkerson ’09, ’21, ’24]
People’s Choice ($1,500): Cosmic Leap Foundation [Rachelle Pedersen ’21, ’24, Natasha Wilkerson ’09, ’21, ’24]

Full Pitch Division | Former Students
1st Place ($7,500 – sponsored by LiquidAgents Healthcare): Unifi Technologies [Tanner Hilton ’16]
People’s Choice ($1,500): Unifi Technologies [Tanner Hilton ’16]

Elevator Pitch Division
1st Place ($1,500 – sponsored by Edmonds & Cmaidalka, P.C.): perugu [Janak Abraham ’26, Kieran Beirne ’24, Satwik Putluri ’26, Vikash Ravuri ’26]
2nd Place ($1,000 – sponsored by Knife River): Switchless [Adis Lujinovic ’25, Nicholas Naugle ’25]
3rd Place ($750 – sponsored by Daniel Browne, Ph.D. ’18): SpoonTrack [Fouzul Kansul ’25, Rachel Kurian ’25, Abhinaya Muruganandham ’25]

A list of past Aggie PITCH winners can be found at

Media contact: Lara Robertson,

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