Catalyze Teams
Innovative, highly technical and eager student entrepreneurs at the Oregon Institute of Technology “Oregon Tech” came together on Thursday, May 17 to compete for seed money to turn their product ideas and prototypes into real businesses. The winning project, called OrbitOWLS, is an invention by Mechanical Engineering students Micah Hicks, David Minar, Julien Mindlin-Davidson, Brandon Camp and Ben Porter. The team plans to utilize new technology to send small satellites and other devices to space for a fraction of the price of current methods.

This is the fourth annual 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. Up from $9,000 in 2015, this year the competition had a total prize pool of $22,500, including cash and donated space at the Gaucho Collective. With the theme of ‘Innovation Close to Home,’ eight strong teams competed in the final round of judging. Five volunteer judges, all from Oregon Tech’s business, community and university connections, watched the presentations, asked many probing questions, and selected the winners. The distinguished judges awarded the first place team $7,500 to invest in start-up costs and ignite project development. The second- and third-place winners received $5,000 and $2,500, respectively, based on their plans and presentations. Additionally, the two top teams were awarded an additional $2,500 each to further develop their business plans and compete against other colleges and universities in the statewide InventOR finals in Klamath Falls on June 29.

Projects presented at the Challenge included:

  • Pocket bar: Bryan Wada, Jake Carpenter, Damian Johnson, Megan Morris
  • OrbitOWLs Space Services: Micah Hicks, David Minar, Julien Mindlin-Davidson, Brandon Camp, Ben Porter
  • Linking Limb-er: Dakotah Webb, Adam Arrington, Bailey Bixler
  • Lit: Avery McMillan, DJ Harryman, Ethan Cole, Connor Scott
  • Fleur de Lis: L.B., Trinidad Gonzalez, Clayton Maves, Ephraim Church
  • WADRS: Baker McDonald, Ory Foltz
  • Brevada Brewhouse: David Murphy, Seth Gretz, Spencer Jackson, Isa Daibes
  • Klamath Venture Consultants: Jason Peters, Benjamin Porter


The three winning projects were:

  1. OrbitOWLS, 1st Place: $7,500 prize to continue testing and developing launch systems to support CubeSat launches. Inventors Micah Hicks, David Minar, Julien Mindlin-Davidson, Brandon Camp and Ben Porter are Mechanical Engineering students.
  1. Lit, 2nd Place: $5,000 prize to create a product that transfers heat from a candle into electricity to charge devices like phones. Team members include Avery McMillan a Mechanical Engineering student, and Business: Marketing Option students DJ Harryman, Ethan Cole and Connor Scott.
  2. WADRS, 3rd Place: $2,500 prize to design a meter to measure the velocities and flow rate of moving water for management of water resources. Team members include Baker McDonald, dual Renewable Energy Engineering and Environmental Sciences, and Ory Foltz, Embedded Systems Engineering Technology.

Throughout the event, finalists presented and defended their business plans to the panel of judges which included: John Lamy, Lamy Consulting; Kate Sinner, Business Oregon; Charlie Manger, Duwamish Industrial Innovation; Bill Thorndike, Medford Fabrication; and Stephanie Hirche, Craft3. 

Also in attendance were Juan Barraza from PSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Rachel Brunette from the Lemelson Foundation, who are co-sponsors with Business Oregon of the InventOR Program. They presented Lit and OrbitOWLS with InventOR awards of $2,500 each to build prototypes and present them at InventOR, hosted this year by Oregon Tech. Business Oregon also presented an additional prize of $500 to Linking Limb-er for a Rural Innovation award, and Lit was winner of the Student Choice Award.

Kelley Minty Morris, Klamath County Commissioner and Oregon Tech Board of Trustees member, was the Master of Ceremonies and effectively led the teams and judges through the fast-paced, timed presentations.

The 2017-18 Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge was sponsored by the Deans of Oregon Tech’s College of Engineering, Technology, and Management, the College of Health, Arts, and Sciences, and the Office of Strategic Partnerships. The event is made possible through generous sponsorship and donations from AVISTA, Business Oregon, Gaucho Collective, City of Klamath Falls, Klamath County, Klamath County Economic Development Association (KCEDA), Oregon Small Business Development Center and the Wendt Family Foundation.

Members of the Oregon Tech Innovation and Entrepreneurship Committee include: Hallie Neupert, Chair, Mark Ahalt, Sharon Beaudry, Jesse Chaney, Tara Guthrie, Mike Healy, Franny Howes, Michael Hughes, Don Lee, Aja Bettencourt-McCarthy, SophiaLyn Nathenson, Barbara Neal and Mason Terry.

For more information regarding the Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge, visit