Innovative, highly technical and eager student entrepreneurs at Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech) came together April 15 to compete for $18,750 in seed money to turn their product ideas and prototypes into real businesses. The winning team, called The BioSpec Enterprise, is an all-in-one indoor house plant monitoring system by students Abbey DuBois, Joshua Hewitt, Jared Monroe and Matt Volpe.
This is the seventh Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge, which began with the concept of keeping Oregon Tech graduates in Klamath Falls to start entrepreneurial efforts after graduation and help spur economic growth and stability in the region. Started in 2015, over the past six years student/alumni teams have competed for over $70,000 in prize money and services.
The five project teams who presented at the Challenge included:
- Catalyze or Die: A renewable energy demonstration project that serves as a destination accommodation and learning center for students, community members, and visitors to the region. Students Natalie Arnot (sophomore, Civil Engineering), Jon Freilinger (freshman, Renewable Energy Engineering) and Roy Noland (junior, Mechanical Engineering).
- The BioSpec Enterprise: An all-in-one indoor house plant monitoring system; your plant care assistant. Students Abbey DuBois (freshman, Software Engineering Technology, Honors Program), Joshua Hewitt (sophomore, Cybersecurity), Jared Monroe (freshman, Mechanical Engineering Technology) and Matt Volpe (senior, dual Embedded/Software Engineering Technology, Honors Program).
- Electerro: A natural tree structure with photovoltaic solar leaves and a vertical wind turbine to generate power. Students Mariano Segura (senior, Mechanical Engineering, Honors Program) and Hanna Wolf (senior, dual Renewable Energy/Environmental Sciences).
- Biomass Gas: A biomass gasifier that harnesses plant by-products to create renewable electric energy. Students Darby Twight (senior, Mechanical Engineering) and Aaron West (senior, Mechanical Engineering).
- UPlan: An app to find and create events and activities, and join together with like-minded people. Student Victor Rios (senior, Operations Management) and community partners Isaac Gonzalez, Daniel Partida and Edgar Ramirez.
Throughout the event, finalists presented and defended their business plans to the panel of judges which included: Stephanie Hirche, Craft3; John Lamy, Lamy Consulting; Mike Moore, business owner and community advocate; and Kendra Santiago, Oregon Tech alumna, Klamath County Economic Development Association.
The winning projects were:
- First Place- BioSpec Enterprise: $6,000 prize
- Second Place- Biomass Gas: $4,000 prize
- Third Place- Electerro: $2,000 prize
- Entrepreneur in Action- Biomass Gas: $750 prize
- Audience Choice- Electerro: $1,000 prize
Additionally, Electerro and Biomass Gas were awarded $2,500 each from InventOR to further develop their business plans and compete against other colleges and universities in the statewide InventOR competition on June 25.
The 2021 event is made possible through generous sponsorship and donations from AVISTA, the City of Klamath Falls, Klamath County, Gaucho Collective, Klamath County Economic Development Association (KCEDA), Klamath IDEA Center for Entrepreneurship, Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR), Oregon Small Business Development Center, and the Wendt Family Foundation.
Faculty and staff members of the Oregon Tech Innovation and Entrepreneurship Committee who organized and managed this year’s Catalyze event include Hallie Neupert, Chair; Mike Healy, Levi Lopez, Travis Miller, Eileen Mudgett, Barbara Neal, Kristy Weidman and Shellie Wilson.
For more information regarding the Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge, visit www.oit.edu/catalyze.###