A team of Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech) students won the grand prize at Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge (InventOR) for their natural tree structure with photovoltaic solar leaves and a vertical wind turbine to generate power. The winning team, Electerro, includes Mario Segura of Klamath Falls, a senior in Mechanical Engineering and Honors Program student, and Hanna Wolf of Bend, a 2021 graduate with a dual degree in Renewable Energy and Environmental Sciences, and current graduate student in Renewable Energy Engineering. This is the second time in the last three years that an Oregon Tech team finished at the top in the statewide competition.
Electerro’s prototype is built; with the $10,000 top prize, the team will complete the solar leaves and wind turbine of the initial prototype and apply for a legal Design Patent. The duo will also split the $1,500 People's Choice Award.
As the overall winner of the competition, Electerro will present at the Bend Venture Conference in late October to start increasing their exposure to investors. They will also apply for the Lemelson-MIT student competition for collegiate inventors. This has a 3-phase structure for competitions that take about the span of a year.
The second team from Oregon Tech, BioMass Gas, also received high honors, earning fourth place. Six mechanical engineering students built a biomass power generator that turns agriculture and forestry waste into electrical energy. Students Aaron West (graduated 2021), Darby Twight (graduated 2021), Michael Levi (graduated 2021), Cade Roske (graduated 2021), Liam Bliss (senior), and Travis Gardner (senior) built a machine that converts waste into power by breaking down organic material into fundamental building blocks, producing an explosive gas.
Oregon Tech president, Dr. Nagi Naganathan, saw both teams compete in April on campus at the Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge, which is the competition that brought them to InventOR. "It was an honor to watch Hanna and Mario's first business pitch at Catalyze Klamath and see them expand their business plan and win the InventOR competition," said President Naganathan. "Watching Electerro and Biomass Gas present their projects at InventOR and for both teams to place in the final four brought me immense pride in their accomplishments and professionalism. They are a great example of how universities can nurture the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. I want to thank Professors Hallie Neupert and Kristy Weidman and other colleagues for their special efforts in encouraging and mentoring our students and helping them compete so well."
The InventOR Collegiate Challenge inspires the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs across Oregon, convening winners from preliminary campus competitions to compete for $25,000 in prizes. Projects showcase students' solutions to pressing community needs in Oregon's urban and rural regions — and beyond.
A recording of the final competition can be viewed at www.inventoregon.org/final-2021.###