AI System to Monitor Safety of Elderly Wins Spring 2023 Vol Court

March 10, 2023

An in-home security system, a trailer chocking system and a pumped storage solution captivated the judges at the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s spring 2023 Vol Court.

Vol Court is a five-week entrepreneurial speaker series that culminates in a business idea pitch competition held every semester at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business. Participating students put what they’ve learned into practice by pitching their business ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs for a chance to win $1,500.

“Vol Court gives students an opportunity to challenge themselves and build their resumes in a unique way,” Robyn Geron, director of operations for the Anderson Center, said. “The emphasis is on learning throughout the speaker series and the pitch process, not just whether they win the competition.” 

The team of judges awarded Peace of AI the first-place prize of $1,500, Chock-It the second-place prize of $1,000 and Elev8 Hydro the third-place prize of $500 for their startups. 

Josie Rich, a junior computer science major and Nashville native, founded Peace of AI, an in-home security system that provides peace of mind to families by ensuring their loved one is safe and healthy while living alone at home. The system uses artificial intelligence to detect when someone has fallen.

“Vol Court was a great opportunity to challenge myself and put my public speaking skills to the test,” Rich said. “Winning this initial investment will help jump start Peace of AI’s mission to bring peace of mind to thousands of families across the country.”

Second place was awarded to Chock-It, founded by Blake Norris, a junior management major from Oak Ridge, Tenn. Chock-It is an automatic trailer chocking system that combats and prevents theft.

“Winning at Vol Court gave me more confidence to continue to build my company, and it gave me the recognition and feeling that my hard work is finally paying off,” Norris said.

Kyle Weiss, an energy science and engineering graduate student from Seattle, Wash., founded the competition’s third-place winner, Elev8 Hydro. Elev8 Hydro’s innovative use of water ram pumps in pumped storage facilities minimizes environmental impacts and reduces pumped storage costs. By leveraging this known technology, the company’s solutions increase grid stability and enhance cost effective large-scale energy storage.

“Winning this prize is the first step of many in validating our pumped storage solution,” said Weiss. “This competition was both challenging and fun, with some nerves thrown in. We greatly appreciate these opportunities put on by the Anderson Center and look forward to the next one.”

Featured Speakers

Derrick Davis (UT Law, ‘18) joined week one of Vol Court to discuss intellectual property. Davis, an IP attorney at LegalForce, covered patents, trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks and non-disclosure agreements for startups. 

Jake Rheude (MBA, ‘15), chief marketing officer of EcomHalo, spoke to students about search engine marketing. Rheude won all three of the Anderson Center’s competitions more than a decade ago and came back to share his experience and knowledge. From a big picture overview to detailed tips and tricks, he provided students with tangible ways to optimize and make their startup discoverable on Google.

Week three’s session on building a strong and successful team was presented by the Anderson Center’s director of operations, Robyn Geron. Geron shared advice on the importance of choosing business partners to help startups excel, as well as the hiring process needed to make a startup a reality.

The last Vol Court speaker, Chris McAdoo, spoke on how to perfect the pitch. McAdoo is the director of strategy and engagement at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. Students applied his advice as they gave their 90-second pitch for the Vol Court prize.

The Anderson Center would like to thank the Scott and Dianna Roe Foundation for their foundational support of Vol Court and the students involved, as well as EcomHalo for their funding of the first-place prize this spring.

About the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation 

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI) is a university-based resource for entrepreneurship across the region and the state of Tennessee. Its mission is to foster an entrepreneurial culture at UT and across the state by developing student skills, providing experiential learning opportunities, conducting meaningful entrepreneurial research and connecting students with mentors and resources that enable them to successfully start and grow new businesses.


Brennan Hullett,