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May 25, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Erica Grant competing later this week in “Heartland Challenge”

There’s nearly $100,000 in prize money up for grabs later this week at the “Heartland Challenge,” and Knoxville’s Erica Grant, Founder of Quantum Lock Technologies LLC, is one of a dozen competitors in the event.

She launched the start-up to develop the most secure locks for every door, using quantum physics to tap into the randomness of particle behavior to create completely unpredictable and untraceable digital keys for smart locks. The patent-pending technology eliminates the need for master keys.

Hosted by the University of Arkansas’ Sam M. Walton College of Business, the “Heartland Challenge” spotlights graduate student entrepreneurs from around the world in what will be a virtual competition. Grant is a doctoral candidate in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education that leverages the assets of both the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

According to the “Heartland Center” website, 11 of the 12 competitors come from U.S.-based institutions of higher education with Johns Hopkins University fielding two teams. The lone international competitor comes from Thailand.

The schedule calls for the 12 semifinalists to compete on Thursday (May 28) in a non-broadcast event to determine those that will move to the finals tomorrow. The four teams selected for the next round will be announced via a Facebook broadcast at 6 p.m. EDT/5 p.m. CDT Thursday. Then on Friday (May 29), both the finals (9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. EDT) and the “Elevator Pitch” competition and awards ceremony (1 to 2 p.m. EDT) will also be broadcast via Facebook.

All of the finalists will win some money. First prize is $50,000, second place is $25,000, third place is $10,000, and fourth place is worth $5,000. The winner of the “Elevator Pitch” will receive $3,000 with the runner-up awarded $2,000.

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