In April, Ben Newman and Jeremy Boone won the preliminary round of the Global Student Entrepreneurship Challenge hosted by VT KnowledgeWorks, earning them $15,000 and the opportunity to compete in the Aug. 20 finals. But now both have been called to active duty effective Aug. 11, eliminating them from the competition.

Newman and Boone, both members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets class of 2015 who earned degrees in management from the Pamplin College of Business, are now second lieutenants in the U.S. Marine Corps and scheduled to attend The Basic School, a course that teaches the basic skills needed to be an effective Marine officer, in Quantico, Virginia.

Their winning idea addresses the how difficult it can be to keep a gun clean — to remove the carbon, lead, copper, and plastic residues left behind in small crevices each time it's fired.

Newman and Boone designed and built Calbico, a plastic, non-marring tool modeled after a dentist's tool that can clean a firearm more efficiently with angled tips of varying size.

"Team Calbico" was scheduled to compete against teams from 13 universities around the world in the final round of the Global Student Entrepreneurship Challenge, part of Global Partnership Week, an event hosted by Virginia Tech, VT KnowledgeWorks, and the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.. At stake is a $25,000 grand prize, $15,000 second prize, and $5,000 People’s Choice award.

Richard Daugherty, director of strategic services for VT KnowledgeWorks, said organizers reviewed the option to send another team from Virginia Tech but  decided against because of the late notice.

Newman and Boone attribute some of their success in the preliminary round to a class called Developing Entrepreneurial Ventures taught by Daugherty.

Many people use household items such as Q-tips, pipe cleaners, paper clips, and skewers to clean the hard-to-reach areas of their weapons, Newman said. Gun care kits come with many pieces to clean different parts of a weapon and are often made of metal, which mars the surface.

“We knew there had to be a better way to clean guns and get to those hard-to-reach areas,” Newman said.

With assistance from a neighbor back home in Tysons, Virginia, Newman formulated an idea for a more functional  cleaner based on the design of a dentist’s teeth cleaning tool. He was partnered with Boone and given the opportunity to develop and improve his concept in Daugherty’s class, which was modeled after the Global Student Entrepreneurship Challenge. 

“I guided [teams] in both making sure they had a good business concept base and investigating the possible routes to commercial success,” Daugherty said.

Newman and Boone currently bundle their product with gun purchases from manufacturers, which allows them to sell a large amount at once and spread awareness of the tool. Recently, companies have begun picking up the product to sell online and Newman has initiated conversations with a government contractor.

“The government contractor will help us sell Calbico to the police and government, specifically the military,” said Newman.

The 2014 Global Student Entrepreneurship Challenge grand prize went to Team feelSpace from the University of Trento, Italy, for their navigation device for the blind.

Register and learn more about the event online. For questions regarding the event, visit the website or contact Lindsey Eversole at 540-443-9100 ext. 2 or via email.

VT KnowledgeWorks encourages and enables creative entrepreneurship. It is a subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

Written by Katherine Wells.