By: Sophia Oh | February 16th, 2021


Discovering the Diamond Challenge in early middle school, Michael Wiciak could already picture himself entering. As a teen, he would go to pitch events and watch the magic happen. But it wasn’t until 2017 when Michael and his team prepared their design to present to the judges.

Ever since he was a kid, Michael had always loved flying drones. However, he noticed a key problem. Drones usually come with one camera, one battery, and break easily. They are also very expensive, costing up to $1,000. Michael and his team wanted to create a reliable, cost-efficient drone that had replaceable parts and a long-lasting battery. After multiple attempts, he created Tortuga, a sturdy drone with an interchangeable camera system and a flight time of up to one hour.

Michael and his team earned 3rd place at the 2018 Diamond Challenge and were able to continue their project with their winnings. Throughout the development stage, Michael and his team faced several challenges such as financing their business. But by taking advantage of Kickstarter events, Michael was able to obtain a 3D printer. Now at Virginia Tech, Michael’s experience with the Diamond Challenge has helped him succeed in other entrepreneurial opportunities at the college level.

When asked what advice he would give his past self entering the Diamond Challenge, Michael replied “Take the time back then to absorb as much as you can, and then iterate on those ideas.” He believes that humility and openness to new ideas are some of the most important parts of the learning process and will help young entrepreneurs flourish.

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