Creative, and hopeful, entrepreneurs came together on Thursday to compete for seed money to turn their ideas into real businesses, or expand current fledgling efforts. The concept is a play on the popular CNBC show, Shark Tank, which helped spur the Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge at Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech).
The Catalyze Challenge began seven months ago when Oregon Tech called for entries to the contest from the student body and recent alumni. With the economic development theme of ‘Innovation Close to Home,’ the university asked for individuals to form teams who were Oregon Tech undergraduate/graduate students working in senior project teams, or Oregon Tech graduates from the Classes of 2014 or 2013 who reside in Klamath Falls. Five teams answered the challenge and competed in the final round of judging on Thursday. Four volunteer judges, all from Oregon Tech’s business connections, watched the presentations and decided which two runners up would receive $3,000 or $1,000, and which winning plan would receive $5,000 to invest in start-up costs and ignite project development, or to share among the team.
The five finalists were as follows:
  1. Critter: seeks to produce a robotic conversion kit and automation software for agricultural and land management equipment. Team: Nate Gardner, Rohit Kavathekar, Stephen Snellgrove, Lydia Doza, Dave Houston, Gabby Mason, Erik Andersen, Michael Anderson, Brianna Soli
  2. Adralis Systems: biometric network security system utilizing an EEG to produce a completely unique and secure passcode for use in multiple aspects of digital data transfer. Team: Erik Flores, Royce Taft, Kyle Hanson, Adam Langenstein, Jaclyn Smith
  3. SSTIM Manufacturing: using CNC lathe to create titanium medical parts, making the ingestion of a new medicine easier than ever. Team: Shelbey Coulter, Scott Hubbard
  4. Gro-volution: sustainable agriculture production system ("In the box farming"). Team: Eric Wilson, Derek Pallett, Nathan Leung
  5. Solar Search and Rescue Drone: Drone that works search patterns and grids, equipped with a camera to search for victims of natural disasters like landslides or avalanches or lost hikers. Team: Michael Peterson
Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour judging, finalists presented and defended their business plans to the panel of judges which included John Lamy, Founder of a management consultancy firm; Jessica Gomez, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of a microelectronics manufacturing company; Kelley Minty Morris, Klamath County Commissioner; and Elizabeth Bauer, President and Founder of an impact growth investment firm.
Once the judges had reviewed team’s 10-page business plans and listened to their presentations, Judge John Lamy and Klamath County Commissioner Jim Bellet announced the winner. Gro-volution came in first and was awarded $5,000. Critter placed second and received $3,000, while SSTIM placed third and received $1,000.
Gro-volution proved their sustainability and feasibility through a concept that makes the micro-greens produce attainable to anyone, at any given place, and at any time of the year. Their Portable Environment for Agriculture (PEA Pod) is built to provide nutrient-rich, locally grown produce at a rate equal to the local demand. Their business plan states, “We choose Klamath Falls for the challenging growing environment, which tests the rigor of our technology and its potential for global use. Our short term goal is to expand throughout Oregon and provide a superior produce at a competitive price to other large produce farms. We aim to provide produce which is grown fungicide-, pesticide-, herbicide-, disease-, and pest-free.” All three founders of the Gro-volution team graduated from Oregon Tech with Bachelor of Science Degrees in Mechanical Engineering in 2013. To learn more about Gro-volution, additional features are available through the Herald & News and KOBI5.

For more information regarding the Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge, visit
The 2014-15 Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge is sponsored by the Deans of Oregon Tech’s College of Engineering, Technology, and Management (ETM) and College of Health, Arts, and Sciences (HAS). The event is made possible through generous donations from Senator Doug Whitsett and Representative Gail Whitsett, who provided $5,000, and the remaining $4,000 was supplied by Klamath County through funds specifically allocated towards economic development.


Custom Awards Donated by Black Canyon Woodworks in Bend, Oregon.
About Oregon Tech
Founded in Klamath Falls in 1947, Oregon Institute of Technology is the only public institute of technology in the Pacific Northwest. Oregon Tech provides degree programs in engineering and health technologies, management, communication, and applied sciences that prepare students to be effective participants in their professional, public, and international communities through hands-on learning. Oregon Tech has a full-service, residential campus in Klamath Falls and an urban, industry-focused campus in Wilsonville. Visit to learn more about Oregon Institute of Technology.