Meet the “geeks”

Authored By Chloé Morrison

This summer, 11 “geeks” came to Chattanooga from varying distances and backgrounds to try to uncover uses for the city’s unique high-speed Internet.

“The design of the program was to bring 11 really smart individuals with a variety of different skill sets and challenge their mindset, push them to start thinking outside the box about what it means to have a gigabit-a whole different bandwidth paradigm than the whole rest of the world has now,” Brian Trautschold, one of the leaders of the Gig Tank competition, said.

Gig Tank is a competition that brought college students and entrepreneurs to Chattanooga to create businesses and find applications for the city’s high-speed Internet.

The worldwide search for the college students was dubbed the Geek Hunt.

Now that the hunt is over, the “geeks” have joined the Gig Tank competition.

A $100,000 cash prize and investment capital will go to the team of entrepreneurs with the most viable business idea on Demo Day, which is scheduled for Aug. 9.

The “geeks” have a choice of going for the $100,000 prize-which has stiffer criteria-or for a $50,000 prize that organizers will give to the best idea to come from a student, Trautschold said.

Every week on Wednesday, the students pitch ideas to mentors and judges. Each week, the winner of that pitch contest gets to start building a team that will help implement the idea.

The hope is that these ideas turn into viable businesses.

But in business, it’s difficult to know what will be successful, and for Trautschold, having fresh, talented minds in Chattanooga is already a win.

“The No. 1 thing that I want is for young, smart people to come to Chattanooga and experience it and enjoy a city they might have never come to,” he said. “No. 2 is I want to personally develop them to be awesome thinkers and leaders.”

The “geeks”
Seth Bigham is one of the geeks, and he comes from nearby LaFayette, Ga. He was familiar with the city and said it is exciting to watch it become “an influential player in innovation in America.”

Evan Miller grew up here but then went away for school. He was impressed to see the changes, especially to the North Shore and Southside, he said.

Others didn’t know what to expect from the Gig City.

Nicole Newman, Ashbury Park, N.J., didn’t expect Chattanooga to be so progressive.

“I expected Chattanooga to be a very small, out-of-touch city,” she said. “Chattanooga is very forward-thinking, and there is a huge emphasis on community here. I wish the transit system was better, but I love the restaurants. The Geek Hunt has brought me in touch with many ambitious, accepting individuals.”

For Australia resident Guy Leech, Chattanooga is his first experience in the states, he said.

He called Chattanooga a “nice city,” but he took notice of some abandoned buildings around the city, he said. 

Ustin Zarubin said he joined the Gig Tank because he had “nothing better going on during the summer.”

“Plus, changing the world sounds appealing,” the Moscow, Russia, native said. 

Name: Cíntia Shizuko Kotsubo
Age: 20
Hometown: I am from Brazil (Mirandópolis, SP), but I am living in Cookeville, Tenn., until December 2012.
School: I am in a one-year exchange program at Tennessee Tech University until December 2012. In Brazil, I study at Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto.
Studying: Mechanical engineering
What is a “geek” to you? A person who has tech news and gadgets as a hobby.

Name: Marcellin Nshimiyimana
Age: 23
Hometown: Sewanee, Tenn. (Origin: Rwanda)
School: The University of the South
Studying: Computer science
What is a “geek” to you? Geek is anybody with an endless passion about something/someone.

Name: Seth Bigham
Age: 18
Hometown: LaFayette, Ga.
What is a “geek” to you? Someone that is very passionate about the things they love, which generally has something to do with technology.

Name: Nicole Newman
Age: 23
Hometown: Asbury Park, N.J.
School: Recent Dartmouth College graduate 
Studying: Engineering science with a concentration in studio arts (architecture)
What is a “geek” to you? I define a geek as someone who is obsessed with challenging the status quo, specifically in a few areas of interest.

Name: Evan Miller 
Age: 27 
Hometown: Chicago, Ill.
School: University of Chicago
Studying: Economics
What is a “geek” to you? A geek is someone who is passionate about learning all the details of whatever they’re interested in-not just computers!

Name: Guy Leech 
Age: 23 
Hometown: Canberra, Australia
School: The Australian National University
Studying: Earth or environmental science 
What is a “geek” to you?  Someone very obsessed with something.

Name: Ustin Zarubin
Age: 22
Hometown: Originally from Moscow, Russia, but current from Athens, Ga.
School: University of Georgia
Studying: Physics/computer science
What is a “geek” to you? I think the definition of a geek has changed rapidly. Geeks are not the new popular thing. I guess a geek to me is a person exactly like me.

Name: Tony Cain
Age: 21
Hometown: Chattanooga
School: UTC
Studying: Graphic design 
What is a “geek” to you?  A geek is someone who understands the world through a technological and logical lens.

Name: Cory Chapman
Age: 23
Hometown: Huntsville, Ala.
School: UNC-Chapel Hill
Studying: Information science in human computer interaction at the master’s level
What is a “geek” to you?  The definition that I learned many years ago is paraphrased in Merriam-Webster as, “a carnival performer often billed as a wild man whose act usually includes biting the head off a live chicken or snake.” I don’t think that’s what you wanted. A geek is anybody who is so enthusiastic about something as to stand out from the crowd. That “something” doesn’t have to be technology or computers. You can be a soccer geek, an Egyptology geek, an art history geek or any other kind of geek. Passion and enthusiasm are the common threads.

Name: Robert Derveloy
Age: 30
Hometown: Nashville
School: UTC
Studying: Computer science and information security concentration at the master’s level
What is a “geek” to you?  Someone who is very passionate about something and isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo and think outside the box.

Note: Ten out of 11 Gig Tank participants responded to this survey.

Disclaimer: is affiliated with the Lamp Post Group, but editorial decisions for this publication are made independent of the Lamp Post Group.