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'Chief shoe giver' to speak to students during NMSU's 2010 Innoventure competition

Blake Mycoskie, the founder and "chief shoe giver" of TOMS Shoes, will be the featured keynote speaker at the 2010 Innoventure competition, sponsored by New Mexico State University's Arrowhead Center. The yearly competition will be held Thursday, March 11, at the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces, with Mycoskie to speak at 7 p.m. His presentation, "The TOMS Shoes Story," is free and open to the public, but requires a ticket that can be obtained from http://tomsshoes.eventbrite.com.



Blake Mycoskie, the founder and chief shoe giver of TOMS Shoes, Inc., will speak to students during NMSU's 2010 Innoventure competition. (Submitted photo)

Mycoskie, an entrepreneur who has created five businesses since college, gained fame when he competed in the CBS reality show "Amazing Race." He was also featured in an AT&T commercial as the "chief shoe giver" of TOMS Shoes, a company that provides shoes to children in need.

Innoventure encourages students to use science, engineering and business skills to solve problems. This year's theme was chosen specifically to complement Mycoskie's social entrepreneurship efforts. Students were instructed to make self-contained kits for children their age or younger who live in "extreme circumstances," broadly defined as anything ranging from war, to homelessness, to natural disaster areas to foster care. Each student team will present their projects and will be judged on various components, including general idea, feasibility and presentation.

"The idea is to help, not just in the short-term, but in the long-term, too, with their projects," said Marie Borchert, an educational specialist for Arrowhead Center. "We also want to show students that you can develop a profitable, sustainable business while still being socially conscious."

Borchert said the event helps students understand the process of developing technological products from the idea phase to production. It also gives them a foundation of understanding business concepts as they relate to developing a product and marketing it. The competition develops practical skills of problem solving, business writing, teamwork, meeting deadlines and communication.

"I think it lets people see that even young people can be innovative and have good ideas," said Samantha Apodaca, a freshmen from Deming High School competing in this year's event. Her team created a water filter for use in natural disasters.

"My favorite part is designing the prototype. It makes it seem like you are really doing something big and fantastic. It also shows you that you have to work together as a team, or it's not going to work at all," she said. The rest of her team, Jordan Jones and Skyler Miller, took part in last year's competition as well.

New for the 2010 Innoventure competition was the use of social networking to disseminate important information and assist teams with questions. The site, http://www.innoventurenetwork.org, has video presentations, photos and links to individual team sites.

"It really demonstrates the benefits of technology and the power of networking in making connections," said Sara Sanders, entrepreneurship director for Arrowhead Center.

Approximately 70 teams of students from around New Mexico competed in this year's contest. Of those, teams from 17 middle schools and 19 high schools made the cut to compete in the contest finals.

For more information about the event, contact Borchert at mhaaland@ad.nmsu.edu or at (575) 646-7839.