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Winners of 2016 Boone Discovery Forum develop innovative ideas for saving water, encouraging creative entrepreneurship and fostering dialogue

By University Communications

BOONE, N.C.—Three teams of student entrepreneurs from Appalachian State University will compete for $10,000 in underwriting at the annual BB&T Leadership Symposium beginning Friday in Raleigh. They will also refine their business ideas, hone their pitch skills, network with other entrepreneurs from across North Carolina and learn more about starting a business from the state’s leaders in innovation.

The symposium’s three Appalachian teams were selected by audience vote last October at the Boone Discovery Forum, where they were each given five minutes to pitch an idea or venture to make Boone a better place. Seven other teams rounded out the field of competitors at the forum, which took place in the Plemmons Student Union on the Appalachian campus.

One team going to the symposium consists of Emil De Jong of Copake, New York, and Kevin Burgess of Charlotte. Both students are pursuing M.S. degrees in appropriate technology.

De Jong and Burgess’ idea is titled “The Absurdity of Pooping in Potable Water.” The concept: In a world where safe drinking water is scarce, we are pooping in ours. Using water has become so routine that most of us don’t think twice before flushing our toilets. Our goal is to interrupt the flow by implementing fully tested, low-cost, water-reuse systems starting within the local community.

Dr. Lee F. Ball Jr., Appalachian’s director of sustainability, welcomed the De Jong-Burgess effort, having found it consistent with the values of sustainability, of which Appalachian is a leader.

“The value of our student’s ideas and innovations cannot be underestimated,” he said. “They are so in tune with the world around them and the idealism needs to be celebrated.”

The $10,000 in question will help finance a venture of the team that wins the final pitch competition at the Leadership Symposium in Raleigh. Competitors will be drawn from Discovery Forums that took place last fall in several other North Carolina cities.

The next Leadership Symposium will be held Friday through Sunday in the Hunt Library at N.C. State University.

A record 190 attendees participated in the Boone Discovery Forum. As for the two other winning teams, one consists of Sage Buccafurri, a senior from Fayetteville who is majoring in hospitality and tourism management; Ethan Downs of Charlotte, who is pursuing an MBA in sustainable business; and Mieszko Kwiatkowski of Boone, a student in Appalachian’s Scholars with Diverse Abilities Program (SDAP). SDAP is an initiative that provides a college experience for students with intellectual disabilities.

The idea that Buccafurri, Downs and Kwiatkowski came up with is called “Creative Unbound.” The concept: Working with Scholars with Diverse Abilities on campus to repurpose artwork into merchandise to be sold online, Creative Unbound will provide young adults with intellectual disabilities a way to integrate with their community, put their natural talents to work, and earn income as they graduate from available support programs.

Matt Zothner, a senior marketing major from Apex, makes up a one-person team headed to Raleigh. His idea is titled “Roots.” The concept: Roots is a platform that enables students to voice their opinions on local campus issues and to create solutions for these issues. It fosters open communication between the university and its student body because it is run by the university.

The 2016 Boone Discovery Forum was hosted by the Institute of Emerging Issues at N.C. State and by two entities of Appalachian’s Walker College of Business: the BB&T Student Leadership Center and the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship.

The Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) and BB&T partnered to create the initial Discovery Forum in Raleigh during the fall of 2011. The mission of the Discovery Forum is to develop the leadership potential of young adults in North Carolina. In 2015, IEI and BB&T expanded the reach of the Discovery Forum program by organizing Discovery Forums in six cities across North Carolina, including Boone.

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system, Appalachian enrolls about 18,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.