University announces Kiewit, Scott entrepreneurial award winners
University of Nebraska President James B. Milliken has announced the 2010 winners of two awards that honor entrepreneurship in Nebraska: the Peter Kiewit Student Entrepreneurial Award and the Walter Scott Entrepreneurial Business Award.

The Peter Kiewit award recognizes University of Nebraska students who have worked toward community and business improvements through creative, innovative uses of information technology. The award is accompanied by a $2,500 prize.

This year’s Kiewit award winner is Christopher Bruening, a UNL mechanical engineering graduate who is part of the founding team of Agricultural Flaming Innovations, LLC. AFI was established in 2009 with a vision to provide safe, energy-efficient flaming equipment and techniques for weed and pest control.

Bruening has played a major role in the engineering research and product development that will make AFI a success, according to his nominator, George Gogos, a UNL mechanical engineering professor who is also part of AFI’s founding team. (Stevan Knezevic, an associate professor of integrated weed management at UNL, is the third member of the team.) Bruening has built business knowledge by taking an entrepreneurship course and attending relevant conferences and trade shows such as Husker Harvest Days, and in spring 2009, he wrote a business plan for AFI.

Bruening earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2006 and his master’s degree in 2009, both from UNL. He has more than 10 years of experience working on his family’s agronomy farm, and four years of experience working as a lab technician and graduate research assistant.

Milliken said Bruening represents a growing number of young people interested in entrepreneurship, noting a recent Gallup survey found that 70 percent of young Nebraskans want to start their own business.

“Leveraging the entrepreneurial spirit of these young people will be key to Nebraska’s future economic growth, and the University of Nebraska can help accomplish this,” Milliken said. “By directing his creativity, passion and talents toward improving our community – while simultaneously furthering his education – Christopher Bruening truly embodies the spirit of entrepreneurship.”

The Walter Scott award is designed to encourage existing businesses with a presence in Nebraska to create partnerships with the University of Nebraska in the area of technology. The award comes with a $10,000 prize to be used for the promotion and/or creation of student work experiences in the fields of information science, technology and engineering.

This year’s Scott award winner is Xpanxion, LLC, an Atlanta-based technology consulting and outsourcing company with a Nebraska Active Quality Center located in Kearney.

Xpanxion has partnered with the University in a number of ways. For example, the company provides internships for students that turn into full-time jobs after the students graduate; previous interns are now advancing into leadership positions within the company. Xpanxion also has worked with UNK to develop a software quality assurance course to give students skills they need to be competitive in the workforce, and has sponsored a scholarship program to help students with technology interests attend college. Xpanxion’s founder, Paul Eurek, delivered the keynote address at UNK’s winter 2006 commencement ceremony, and has worked with the University and community to encourage entrepreneurship and economic development in Central Nebraska.

According to its application, Xpanxion plans to use its award money to provide more training opportunities for its current student interns and UNK students. This will equip students with software skills they might not otherwise learn in the traditional classroom, increase their earning potential and make their jobs less likely to be outsourced. Xpanxion also plans to bring an instructor into town for a multi-day software training course, to which current and prospective interns and others would be invited.

“Xpanxion’s work in Nebraska is a great example of a public-private collaboration that benefits the University, the company and the community,” Milliken said. “By offering internships and jobs to our students, collaborating with our faculty to develop new courses and bringing technology experts to Nebraska, Xpanxion has shown how public-private partnerships can move the state forward.”

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