LSU Tiger Band members walk away with top prize in student incubator pitch competition

Two members of the LSU Tigers Marching Band won the Fourth Annual LSU Elevator Pitch Night competition on Wednesday evening for their invention that enables band members, while marching, to read music from smart devices instead of old-fashioned flip books.

Daniel Wendt, the Tiger band’s drum major, and Garrett Kessling, a saxophonist, are the co-founders of Tonal Innovation, which created the E-Flip in the LSU Student Incubator two years ago.

The product is a small, adjustable apparatus that attaches to marching band instruments and holds smart devices like tablets and iPhones. Reading music from smart devices instead of bulky paper books is easier for musicians because they don’t have to flip pages or deal with the glare created by the plastic coverings on paper flip books.

The LSU Student Incubator has been working with Wendt and Kessling on developing their product since they first conceived the idea. The partners used the incubator’s engineering services to design the E-Flip, printed it with the incubator’s 3-D printer and worked with advisers to have prototypes manufactured in China.

“Last week they got the first prototype they’re really happy with, and they’re looking to place their first order within the month,” says Kenny Anderson, manager of the LSU Student Incubator.

The competition’s second-place winner was Joe Steiner, a medical physics doctoral candidate, who designed a device to screen for prostate cancer that lowers the rate of false positive screenings. Third place went to Kiara Littlejohn and Calvin Montgomery, who created a student-centered cleaning service, KC’s Cleaning Cavalry.

Some 20 groups competed before a three-judge panel in the pitch night competition, which gives students real-life entrepreneurial experience. Half the groups received high scores of 90 or better and Tonal Innovation scored 108, which Anderson says indicates the event has become more sophisticated each year.

“It was definitely our best yet,” he says. “The students were well prepared and had practiced and timed themselves.”

Winning teams could choose among three prizes: a free year of tenancy in the incubator, an Apple Watch or $100.

The pitch competition at LSU was held in advance of Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week, which is now in its fifth year and will take place next week. The weeklong celebration of all things entrepreneurial is annually held in conjunction with Global Entrepreneurship Week. Local events include a mix of pitch competitions, national keynote addresses, educational programs, panel discussions, networking events and opportunities for angel investors to see new businesses. See the complete lineup of BREW events.

—Stephanie Riegel

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