The following was originally published in the Sun Community News.

ESSEX | CFES and the University of Vermont have teamed up to present the Vermont Pitch Challenge, a “Shark Tank”-style competition open to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors everywhere. Students will be encouraged to come up with an idea that is both beneficial to the common good and capable of turning a profit.

The Pitch Challenge sprang from a problem that was solved by Wildlife Imaging Systems founder Brogan Morton after two groups whose interests are usually aligned found themselves at odds. The issue was renewable energy versus wildlife conservation, specifically wind turbines versus bats.

Wind turbines typically kill hundreds of thousands of bats yearly, but because bats are only active at night and their behavior largely unobservable, getting a better look at the problem posed a challenge.

The problem was solved after Morton figured out how to track bats in the dark using thermal imagery.

“We (had) seen (bat) behaviors no one had ever seen before,” Morton said, “which was an essential step toward finding a solution to the mortality problem” while also growing a for-profit business.

At a CFES Brilliant Pathways global conference held in Burlington, Vt., last month, Morton first shared the story of his “entrepreneurial moment.” On Dec. 12 he will retell that story on a free webinar, hoping to inspire young people to think about creating world-changing innovations of their own.

“This new interest in entrepreneurialism is one for the great opportunities of our post-pandemic era, and CFES is showing students how to go about it,” said CFES President and CEO Rick Dalton.

The introductory webinar will take place Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. and is open to be public by registering at VTpitch-Morton. It will be recorded for future viewing.

Submissions for the competition open Jan.15, with cash and scholarship prizes for the winners. Details are available at