Christian Pimentel came in third out of five in a YEScarolina entrepreneurship competition, but winning wasn’t his goal.
It would have been nice, his mentor and YEScarolina board of directors’ member, Sahir Iqbal, says. But the recent Carolina Forest High School graduate’s goal in the contest was to learn how to build his company, Aerial Buildz, and “make a viable product that would work. Winning was the last thing on his mind.”
Pimentel, who left in September for bootcamp with the Army National Guard, competed in the ninth annual State Business Plan Competition, building a prototype of a drone he hopes to market as a kit.
Pimentel and his statewide competitors pitched their business plans to panels of judges in 8.5-minute presentations followed by 3-minute Q&A sessions.
To qualify for the event, executive director Tracy Bradshaw says, students took the high school entrepreneurship class from a YEScarolina certified teacher, completed a business plan and won first or second place in classroom competition.
Pimentel’s business education teacher, Monica Brisbon, explains, “Christian’s business, Aerial Buildz, is a build-it-yourself drone kit that promotes STEM education and which he can sell at an affordable price so students from all backgrounds can be exposed to different concepts dealing with STEM education.”
Explaining his project in writing, Pimentel said, “I have always been interested in making stuff, which is one of the key factors of me joining the robotics team at my school, but as a younger kid and even now, I never knew how to make stuff or would not understand the videos online.
“Because of this, I would give up easily and lost interest, eventually causing me to just give up my dream job of being a robotics engineer.”
Pimentel went on to write that a conversation with a cousin caused him to think about designing and selling drones.
“I want to sell [drones] in kits so young people get a sense of accomplishment in building them and maybe enough to pursue a career in STEM,” he wrote.
Coming in third place gives Pimentel $1,000 seed money to be used towards his business.
One of the challenges Pimentel had and which his mentor helped him with was understanding the financial aspect of the project.
“He didn’t have a great grasp of the financial investment he would need to put forward or how to bring the cost down,” Iqbal says.
Another challenge Pimentel faced was how to get the drones into the hands of the people he wanted to help.
“His mission was to incentivize people to explore STEM careers. Building these drones with the science behind it is not on the market right now, and creating a drone kit that comes with these tools, being able to put the science and the building of it together…instead of getting an instruction manual, his goal is incorporating psychics and chemistry and educating youth in terms of how these propellers are actually spinning,” Iqbal says.
One of Pimentel’s goals is to make the affordable kit available on different levels from pre-K through high school.
Another high priority was making the drone kit educational.
“Recreation and education, that’s what Christian wants his drones to be used for,” Iqbal says.
“There are a lot of drone-building kits out there in different price ranges, but Christian felt really passionate about making sure this kit would teach science in the process, and not just how to attach a piece to another piece,” his mentor says.
Another thing the young man is passionate about is the autism advocacy organization, Autism Speaks.
“He wants to make sure that some of the money from what he sells goes to people struggling with autism and I thought that was very admirable,” Iqbal says.
Brisbon says her student provided written instructions and a video, wanting to be sure students could customize their drones.
“The class loved Christian’s idea and they could tell through his presentation that he poured a lot into it.”