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Engineering Student Takes Top Prize in Business Competition

By: Kimberly J. Lewis | March 5, 2015

Brandon Naids, who is pursuing a master’s degree in industrial engineering, has won the 2015 UCF Business Model Competition for his presentation about his company Talon Simulations.

The annual event is hosted by the UCF Blackstone LaunchPad, an initiative of the College of Business Administration’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Naids was named the 2015 winner after presenting his business model for Talon Simulations’ affordable alternative to flight schools and expensive flight simulators. The company bridges the gap between personal-computer-based aviation training devices and six-figure advanced aviation training devices.

Naids won a $1,000 cash prize and an invitation to the International Business Model Competition in May, where the top prize is $25,000 in business start-up funding.

As a 2014 UCF graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Naids credits his engineering education for giving him an advantage in business.

“UCF’s engineering curriculum has afforded me and my teammates the knowledge to develop new technology. And all of the resources at UCF give us the confidence we need to compete in the business world.”

Among the resources that facilitate student success at UCF is the new Maker Space Lab complex in the Engineering II building. It includes the Harris Gathering Lab, the Idea Lab, the Manufacturing Lab and the Texas Instruments Innovation Lab, where Naids works 20 hours a week in addition to his coursework and the 40 hours a week he devotes to his company.

UCF Engineering Senior Design Success Story

Talon Simulations originated from Naids’ undergraduate engineering senior design project in 2014, a virtual reality flight simulator that his team built for $1,000. The simulator uses virtual reality technology to immerse users in true-to-life flight experiences.

“We got good feedback from our senior design project,” said Naids. “It was a good concept and really demonstrated that it was a possible business idea.”

Naids and three of the original senior design teammates now work together to grow the company. Naids serves as president; Jordan Griffin is the design engineer; Maurice Roberts is the controls engineer; and Justin Brooks is the business development officer. All hold UCF bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering.

The Growth of Talon Simulations

Recently, the team was selected to participate in UCF’s new I-Corps program, funded by the National Science Foundation. UCF is one of only 15 universities nationwide to host an I-Corps site. The program fosters innovation and promotes regional partnerships in the innovation ecosystem. Teams selected to participate go through a 10-week workshop using “Lean LaunchPad” curriculum and methodology.

“It’s a 10-week boot camp that seeks to validate the commercial feasibility of university-developed technology,” Naids said. “Being a part of this program has allowed us to network with experts in the industry to formulate a valid business model.”

With a goal to develop and market a simulator product for arcades and family centers, Talon Simulations has joined The Amusement Incubator, sponsored by the Orlando-based company Skyline Attractions. The business incubator provides the team with office space and other business resources to facilitate team meetings and customer visits.

The team is also making connections to manufacture the simulators and hopes to add more team members to assist in manufacturing.

“We have partnered with a local simulation company who we are licensing technology from that will allow us to manufacture the first initial units out of their shop,” Naids said.

– CECS –

Learn more about the competition in the UCF Today story by Maddie Hammond.