Some of the world’s brightest entrepreneurial minds aren’t in Silicon Valley. They’re right here at UCF utilizing the Blackstone LaunchPad.
The Blackstone LaunchPad is a service that helped innovators Glenn Wagner, Brandon Carpenter and Dylan Weitzman create their current venture called Thor ORE.
Glenn Wagner is CEO, and the process and prototype engineer. Brandon Carpenter is the COO and is the investigative analysis scientist. Dylan Weitzman is the CRO and works in information aggregation.
“Thor ORE is a nano-filtration system that is integrated into a phosphate mining plant that will allow us to extract rare earth elements and uranium from the mining waste streams,” Weitzman said.
Simply put, Thor ORE reduces waste. Weitzman said that Florida, specifically, is a large source of fertilizer waste byproducts.
“Florida is one of the largest fertilizing producing states in the US and produces more than 60 percent of the [United States’] fertilizer need,” he said. “Now, for every ton of usable fertilizer produced, there are 4.5 to 5 tons of an unusable ‘radioactive’ by-product called phosphogypsum — PG for short — that can not be utilized in either agriculture or construction.”
Weitzman said that Central Florida is an especially large creator of waste. Central Florida produces around 30 million tons of PG annually onto the 1.5 billion tons currently stockpiled in the area.
Weitzman said that the amount of PG pollution is quickly becoming a global issue.
“This is not just a Florida problem but a global problem,” he said. “In 53 countries, over 400 phosphate plants produce around 180 to 250 million tons of PG annually onto the 7-plus billion tons currently stockpiled. PG has trace amounts of rare earth elements, which we are currently 90 percent reliant upon on China, which control over 97 percent of the worlds supply.
“Our filtration system will allow us to extract these critical resources from the waste allowing them to be used in North America’s rare earth supply chain, which is made up of over 440 industries, 600,000 workers and $329 billion in annual revenue alone.”
Blackstone LaunchPad is a service at UCF that helped launch Thor ORE. Scarletta Thomas, a fellow assistant at the Blackstone LaunchPad, said the LaunchPad is a place for entrepreneurs to receive help in achieving their goals.
“You can wake up one day with an idea and come to the LaunchPad,” she said.
The LaunchPad welcomes students who already have fleshed-out businesses. Once you come to the LaunchPad, you can schedule a coaching appointment with someone who can help you get your business off the ground, Thomas said.
Weitzman found the LaunchPad to be invaluable in starting his company.
“Blackstone LaunchPad has helped me hone my skills as an entrepreneur by allowing me to see opportunities and problems as potential businesses,” he said. “It has helped me focus and realize that there is more to life than just school and a job.”
Weitzman, a senior physics major, said his love of physics began when he read the book A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. He now combines his knowledge of science with his knowledge of business.
Other projects that Weitzman has worked on include a hyper loop project for an outside company, oil spill cleanup technology and an IBM cloud quantum computer.
Essentially, the goal of the Blackstone LaunchPad is to allow students to create businesses and ventures that will help society.
According to Glenn Wagner’s LinkedIn page, the goal is to “prioritize what is necessary on a small scale, what is most important on a larger scale, and deriving solutions to failures with fact, reason and logic.”
Jillian James is the Opinions Editor of the Central Florida Future. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org