Bro-less wins annual Student Innovator of the Year competition

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Cayden Bro and Philip Morrison won $12,000 for first place in the BYU Fulton College of Engineering Student Innovator of the Year finals on March 1 for their business pitch, Bro-less.

Bro-less is dedicated to stopping the practice of chick culling with a biotechnological method that prevents female chickens from having male offspring, Morrison said.

Chick culling is the killing of unwanted male chicks in the egg production industry. In their presentation, Bro and Morrison said this happens to 7.5 billion rooster chicks each year.

Bro said that Bro-less is a “gene silencing treatment given to hens that prevent the development of her rooster chicks, meaning that these chickens will only hatch hens.” 

This graphic shows how the “Bro-less gene” affects chicken’s posterity. The graphic was used in Bro-less’ presentation. (Courtesy of Bro-less)

According to Bro-less co-founder Morrison, Bro and Morrison met while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Brazil. The two connected after their missions and were talking about creating an ethical biotech company, Morrison said. 

Morrison said he prayed for opportunities to find ethical biotech ideas and the next day Bro’s girlfriend talked to Bro about a brief part in a documentary she watched about chick culling. This sparked the conversation between Bro and Morrison for their company.

They are still finalizing plans on what they will do with their $12,000 prize they said, but are thinking about funneling the money back into their research to further their progress. 

“All of the other teams did like really well, they had us nervous for quite a while,” Morrison said. “Just seeing how much innovation is going on at BYU and like the entrepreneurial spirit that is like all across campus … is something that opened my mind and got me excited for the future.”

At the start of the event, Studio C member James Perry introduced the five judges. Then each of the seven finalist teams presented to the live audience in the Engineering Building. Perry said each team had exactly four minutes to pitch their ideas, followed by five minutes of Q&A with the judges.

Perry said the teams would be judged on three categories: engineering, innovation and impact.

Zach Collier, the internal communications coordinator for the College of Engineering, said, “One of the biggest goals that the college has is making sure that we give students opportunities for experiential learning, so making sure that they can actually do something.”

Mindsmith was the second-place winner in the competition, claiming $10,000. Co-founders Ethan Webb and Zack Allen won the prize for their learning platform using generative AI.

“We believe that the future of learning is online and we’re well positioned to be and continue to be the leader in AI in education,” Webb said in the presentation.

Third place was awarded to Aerofold Spacer, created by Brian Hall and Matt Petersen for their “Pocket-sized Collapsible Asthma Spacer” winning them $8,000. They also won the “crowd favorite” prize granting them an additional $2,000.

“In the United States one-fourth of the emergency room visits are caused by asthma, there are also over 4,000 deaths every year, and nearly all of those are preventable,” Hall and Petersen said in their presentation. 

This is the Mindsmith logo. Mindsmith won second place at SIOY. (Courtesy of Mindsmith)

Hall and Petersen said these visits and deaths could be prevented by inhaler users using an asthma spacer, but the best product on the market for this is still too large for customers to carry. Hall and Petersen said this is why they developed a collapsable spacer that can fit in a pocket.

Collier said about the competition, “It’s not just for engineers. You know, it’s for everybody. We would love for everybody across campus to come and team up with an engineer … having a successful business requires cross-discipline and we’d love to see people get involved from different walks of life.”

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