College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences

Helmet design concept heads up winners in CAFLS entrepreneurial contest


A Clemson University packaging science student’s concept for designing advanced helmets for “the world’s most dangerous sport” took home top honors at this year’s Cultivate.CAFLS Smackdown Awards Ceremony.

Senior Katharine Gruber’s entrepreneurial initiative, Roughstock Scientific, was the winner of the $2,000 first prize to help her further her concept for bull-riding helmets at this year’s competition.

“It’s worth pointing out what she is doing is both entrepreneurial, and she also did a research project to test the strength of the helmets. So, it cuts across both of these initiatives in our college,” said CAFLS Associate Dean for Undergraduate Instruction Jean Bertrand.

Gruber’s faculty advisor was Associate Professor and Director of Clemson’s Packaging Dynamics Laboratory Greg Batt.

“Katharine is a perfect example of what a highly capable, creative, and motivated student can do when you provide them the right tools and a little guidance,” Batt said. “She came to me over a year ago with a ton of ideas for improving the state-of-the-art in rodeo helmet design. She used the tools available in Clemson’s Headgear Impact Performance (CHIP) laboratory to develop a helmet test method to reproduce bull kick impacts. She has begun using that method to evaluate the performance of various helmets with the goal of informing her future helmet design.”

Open to individuals or teams with at least half of the membership enrolled in a major within the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences, Cultivate.CAFLS featured seven teams that each submitted a five-minute pitch by video for their entrepreneurship idea and a short commercial.

CAFLS Ambassador for Entrepreneurship John McGregor said it was “a nice size group, and all of them have done just a wonderful job.”

“It’s great to have another year of Cultivate.CAFLS where we can see the impact that all of our students at Clemson are going to have on the future economies of not only South Carolina, but the U.S. and maybe even the world,” he said.

The Cultivate.CAFLS Smackdown Awards Ceremony was held virtually this spring for the first time, featuring all the commercials and the announcement of awards. The judges for the contest not only evaluated the projects, but also provided guidance to the teams.

The panel included: Keith Hutchins, management lecturer at Clemson and also an entrepreneur, former business owner and angel investor; Aubrey Coffee, owner of C-Squared Productions, chef and retired senior lecturer in the food science department; Robert Vander Zanden, chairman of the board of AIkido Pharma and retired vice president of R&D for Latin America for Kraft Foods; and Tracy Woodard, co-founder of Covered in Cotton.

Bertrand said the Cultivate.CAFLS ceremony is “one of my favorite evenings of the entire year.”

“It’s so gratifying to watch students in the entrepreneurial initiative because what makes it different than anything else you do as a student is that you have the opportunity to make your ideas come alive, Bertrand said. “In all my years in higher education, I’ve never seen the light bulbs come on on students’ faces as much as they do when they’re working on their own entrepreneurial ideas. So, I’m just so pleased that we had so many students participating.”

The second-place winner, TREM Coffee, captured a $1,000 prize. The team was comprised of: Javin Goodine, Ashley Garwatoski, Natalie Sinclair, Katie Hannah, Alex Martin, Joshua Burch, Miles Mcbee, Sabaistian Thomas, Nehemiah Ashford-Carrol, Azrin Jamison, Greg Goines and McKenna Ebersole. Their faculty advisor was Professor Feng Chen of the Food, Nutrition and Packaging Sciences Department.

The third-place team and winner of top commercial was Summit Foods, which included food science students Reese Kauffman, Drew Willey and Emma Patterson. Their faculty advisor was Marie Hegler, a lecturer in the Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Sciences Department. The team won $500 for their business pitch and a GoPro camera for having the best commercial.

Want to Discuss?

Get in touch and we will connect you with the author or another expert.

Or email us at

    This form is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.