Photos by Ralph Freso
Trenton Nelson set his sights on becoming a mechanical engineer when he left El Paso, Texas, in 2021, to attend Grand Canyon University.
But when a friend was one of several GCU students victimized by skateboard theft, Nelson sensed a device was needed for victims to track or find missing boards — especially on college campuses.
Thanks to Nelson’s instincts and creativity, GCU students soon may not need to worry about the whereabouts of their skateboards.
Nelson founded SkateScout, a company created at business incubator Canyon Ventures, which features a device that will help students track the location of their skateboards.
“People paint their boards and make them easily identifiable,” Nelson said. “They change out the grip tape, change the wheels. But even if you do that and take it somewhere else, you really can’t locate it if it’s a mile away.”
Nelson shared his personal experience with the tracking device.
“My board has been stolen twice in the last month,” Nelson said. “It's been an interesting adventure getting it back. It's paid off in the long run.”
After months of research and measuring the affordability to potential customers (especially college students), the device with an Apple AirTag or Tile tracker can be purchased for $45, according to the company’s website, theskatescout.com.
“People get emotionally attached to their boards,” said Nelson, who revealed he bought a SpongeBob board with a “cool” design for about $190 before he put a tracker on it.
“It saves me from having to pay close to another $200 for another (skate)board.”
Nelson’s research skills enabled him to embark on this journey. Shortly after learning of his friend’s skateboard theft last year, he scoured the internet but was surprised to learn that no company featured a GPS device.
That prompted him to devote much of his time last summer to working on as many as seven iterations before settling on a specific design to hold the tracking device.
Nelson tested the device for himself and even sold a few to select friends. The idea of turning this test into a full-scale business moved to the forefront last fall when he enrolled in an Engineering Innovation and Lab taught by entrepreneurship professor Michael Lang in the Colangelo College of Business.
Students were asked to concoct a device or invention for presentation to the rest of the class, “and everybody loved the idea (of a tracking device for skateboards),” Nelson recalled.
He then took his project to the Innovation, Development, Entrepreneurship and Association (IDEA) Club, a group made up of students, professors and staffers that provides support and feedback to student entrepreneurs.
Nelson said the support was overwhelming. It propelled him to embark on his own business and start an LLC.
Customers can have their name inscribed on the plastic band that holds the GPS device. Meanwhile, Nelson continues to search for the most durable and affordable plastic holder that can withstand challenging weather conditions at an affordable price.
Outside of his business venture, Nelson remains loyal to the GCU engineering department, which gained his attention during a presentation as a high school senior. He is passionate about becoming an engineer after his projected graduation in 2025.
“I saw the engineering department and how many labs they had, and I talked to two professors and (was impressed at) how friendly they were,” Nelson said. “Everybody on campus was so friendly. It just seemed like such a great place just to grow. And that was just the engineering department.
“And then I expanded to make up my own business here at Canyon Ventures, and I never even thought when I first came, ‘Oh, yeah, like this is another area where I could grow.’ ... I started in my bedroom with a tiny desk. I talked to Robert Vera (Director of Canyon Ventures Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship), and he's the one who really pushed me to get in here.”
Nelson would love to see SkateScout expand across the country, especially to El Paso so his friends’ skateboards have ample protection. He also wants to create his own GPS tracker. But his main objective is to have his device on all skateboards.
“I'm working on quality right now and making sure it's good to push out to the market,” Nelson said. “After that, I have designs on my laptop for electric scooters. I just need to go through, of course, making sure what works, what doesn't, going through testing phases, my friends saying ‘OK, if you go here and I take it over here, do you get a notification it’s been lost?’ ... Those are the goals right now I've set for myself.”
And Canyon Ventures is helping him get there.
"Here, it's amazing," he said.
Senior writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]