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UW-Platteville students’ ‘Skillzboard’ wins 2019 WiSys Innovation Showcase

UW-Platteville students Seneida Biendarra, left, and Brian Tuttle, middle, accept the first place prize in the 2019 WSTS Innovation Showcase from WiSys Associate Director Jennifer Souter.

MENOMONIE—UW-Platteville students Seneida Biendarra and Brian Tuttle took first place in the annual WiSys Innovation Showcase on July 22 for their rock-climbing innovation “Skillzboard.”

The student competition was held at UW-Stout during WiSys’ annual celebration of research and innovation, known as WSTS.

“Skillzboard is a portable educational tool for rock climbers, climbing instructors and other professionals working at elevated settings (firefighters, search and rescue personnel, lighting installation and maintenance staff and arborists). The board simulates real-life climbing (ascending and descending) and tethering systems through a modular design that can be used to instruct or practice these skills in a safe environment,” according to the team’s description.

WiSys President Arjun Sanga was impressed by the innovation.

“Seneida and Brian’s presentation stood out during the showcase. It was amazing to watch them explain what they were doing while suspended in the air with the help of their innovation,” Sanga said.

In addition to winning the first-place prize, the Skillzboard team also received the Tim Higgins Innovation Award presented to the student project demonstrating significant innovative, economic and societal impact. 

The award honors Tim Higgins, a business leader from Appleton and a former member of the UW System Board of Regents. He chaired the Regents’ Research, Economic Development and Innovation Committee and served on the WiSys Advisory Board.

UW-Platteville Assistant Professor Dr. Gokal Gopalakrishnan is the students’ faculty advisor.

A prototype for Skillzboard was developed earlier this year during WiSys’ annual Prototype Hackathon at UW-Platteville. The prototype took second place in that competition.


UW-Green Bay Student Carol Brehmer accepts the second place award in the 2019 WSTS Innovation Showcase from WiSys Associate Director Jennifer Souter.

UW-Green Bay students Carol Brehmer and Ebanie Schmidt took second place in the Innovation Showcase with their innovation “PIVOTAL.”

PIVOTAL is a hypoallergenic, easy-to-use and comfortable belt designed for outdoor hobbyists and enthusiasts along with blue-collar workers.

The concept for PIVOTAL was also presented as part of WiSys’ Innovation in Aging competition at UW-Green Bay earlier this year.

The team’s faculty advisor is UW-Green Bay Lecturer Ryan Kauth.


The Innovation Showcase highlights innovative, hands-on projects in any academic discipline. Students are invited to display their projects among their statewide colleagues in parallel with a student poster symposium. 

Just as innovation can take on many forms, students' final, tangible projects may be demonstrated as a prototype, computer display, application storyboard, etc.

WiSys is a nonprofit organization that works with faculty, staff, students and alumni of the UW System to facilitate cutting-edge research programs, develop and commercialize discoveries, and foster a spirit of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking across the state.