As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Matt Dieruf was already quite knowledgeable about wind and elevation before beginning an ECE program at UK. However, one “crazy” idea of his, combined with UK’s College of Engineering set him on the road to success as an entrepreneurial engineer.
“I came up with this crazy idea one summer before attending UK. I thought, ‘there always seems to be wind when flying in an airplane; and if someone could just fly a wind turbine up there, they could produce a lot more energy, a lot more often.’ This began my quest to develop high altitude wind energy,” says Matt.
But having an idea isn’t enough to get it off the ground. For that, Matt needed UK’s College of Engineering.
“The UK engineering program has given me the knowledge and skill set required to put my dreams into reality. I have been able to better define creative ideas, break them down into various components, recognize and overcome associated variables and ultimately build [the technology],” he says.
During the 2009 spring semester, Matt and another student entered Matt’s business concept titled, “2nd Generation, High Altitude Wind Energy” into the second annual Idea State U competition—one of the top state-funded business plan competitions in the nation with over $100,000 in cash prizes. Their entry received first place in their individual category and earned nearly $2,500 in prize money. The success spurred Matt to continue casting his vision for high altitude wind energy. “There have been many creative inventors who’ve filed patents and some who have successfully created prototypes, but I felt I could be different—maybe even better. After the ‘Idea State U’ competition, other people began to believe in my vision as well.”
Soon, investors began offering opportunities for Matt to move from business plan to business owner. “I was invited to present at the B2B (Business-to-Business) event at UK in front of a room of investors. The concept was a hit. Since then, I have recruited top business consultants for partners, have been awarded a grant for proof of concept, started an energy company and now I am off to revolutionize the way we think about wind energy!”
One “crazy” idea is well on its way to producing alternative energy and using renewable resources across the nation and Matt credits UK’s College of Engineering with helping him achieve what he always believed was possible. “UK has a close engineering community, and the faculty and staff foster the entrepreneur spirit,” he says—a spirit which turns ideas into real-world solutions.