Entrepreneurial spirit, technologies on display at UTEP

Luz Perez, right, and Alexandra Perez of MPI Machinery and Design show Cathy Swain, president of The Hub of Human Innovation, products of their company during Thursday’s Paso del Norte Venture Competition and Expo at the Camino Real Hotel. (VICTOR CALZADA — EL PASO TIMES)

›› Photos: Paso del Norte Venture Competition and Expo

A UTEP team’s grand dream of producing a flying car, a father and son start-up selling apps to track down lost or stolen phones, and Chihuahua students’ simple vision of a desert shrimp farm were part of the entrepreneurial spirit displayed Thursday at El Paso’s second venture expo.

Other ventures included technologies to treat diseases and make paper-thin solar panels.

Nineteen start-up companies and 20 college teams were represented at the expo in the Camino Real Hotel’s ballroom. It launched the sixth annual Paso del Norte Venture Competition, which ends Saturday when winners of the student and professional divisions are picked at the University of Texas at El Paso.

The events were organized by The Hub of Human Innovation, an El Paso high-tech incubator, UTEP, New Mexico State University, and Monterrey Tech’s campus in Juarez.

The expo, which included afternoon sessions where start-up companies made pitches to investors and judges, had the feel of a school science fair mixed with doses of TV’s “Shark Tank.”

“We were in the student competition last year and were told our idea would never go forward,” said Leon Viveros, 32, a partner in 35 Solar, a startup based at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center, a venture incubator where he also is a staff member. “But we were able to raise money and make our first prototype” — a tiny solar panel, which he held in the palm of his hand.