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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggie wins PepsiCo idea competition

Environmental+geoscience+and+economics+senior+Hayden+Smith+%28right%29+poses+in+front+of+a+Pepsi+truck+at+the+Super+Bowl.
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Environmental geoscience and economics senior Hayden Smith (right) poses in front of a Pepsi truck at the Super Bowl.

Six months ago while on a walk with his dog, environmental geoscience and economics senior Hayden Smith came up with an innovative method of reducing plastic that eventually led him to win the PepsiCo Game-Changers Competition, landing him a VIP trip to this year’s Super Bowl. 

One of five winners of the competition, Smith had the opportunity to network with Pepsi corporate employees and tour their facilities, as well as speak with Pepsi’s CEO and meet NFL players including Tom Brady. In addition, the winners attended the halftime show rehearsal and Pepsi’s exclusive private party headlined by Travis Scott, and attended by celebrities including Aaron Judge and Cardi B. 

Although Smith could not go into detail about his idea because of a non-disclosure agreement he signed with Pepsi, he was able to say that the project would change consumers’ retail experience by cutting down on plastic use. 

“The best thing we can do is to just remove the plastic in the first place and not have to make the consumer even worry about it,” Smith said. “What the idea does is that it reshapes the consumer experience by providing new products of recyclable material that the customers can then reuse and fill up the shopping experience.” 

Smith said his experiences at A&M gave him the tools he needed to come up with the innovative idea. From double majoring to initiating a startup company with friends his junior year, to running for student senate, Smith said everything he has learned and developed during his time in Aggieland has helped him advance his skill set. 

“Combining national policy perspectives with entrepreneurial skill sets and looking into combining that with sustainability, it all comes together,” Smith said. “It isn’t one thing — it’s a holistic grouping of all of my experiences here.” 

Director of environmental programs and associate professor of geography Brendan Roark said Smith sets an example of what the university expects from its students. 

“One of the things that we really try to stress to all of our environmental program students is this sort of notion of innovative problem solving,” Roark said. “The educational process is really good at explaining what all the problems are, but it takes not only what they take from their professors but also how they are going to move forward with problem solving, entrepreneurship and innovation. It’s only through those mechanisms that environmental problems are going to be solved.” 

Smith said geography professor Vatche Tchakerian is one of his mentors at A&M and a person who shaped his career. According to Tchakerian, Smith’s achievements are a reflection of A&M and the college of geosciences, and Smith is someone other students can look up to.

“We are a small college, but we pride ourselves in taking care of our students, with smaller classes and one-on-ones,” Tchakerian said. “We give them what we know and things we don’t know for the future, and hopefully other students are challenged by Hayden and come back with great ideas.”

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