Nine entrepreneurial student teams from Oregon Tech competed April 24 at the ninth annual Catalyze Klamath Challenge for $18,000 in seed money to turn their product ideas and prototypes into real businesses. The winning concepts are FairPlay Challenge, an education escape room kit, and Ancile Systems, an automatic field tourniquet.

The Catalyze Challenge fosters project development, design, and communications skills while boosting public understanding of the talent pipeline available at Oregon Tech. Judges John Lamy, Lamy Consulting; Randy Cox, Klamath County Economic Development Association (KCEDA); Richard La China, Ninja Mountain Bike Performance; Katie Krummeck, The Lemelson Foundation; and Hanna Segura, HDR, said that the selection of the first-place winners was unanimous.

The business concept for FairPlay Challenge, created by Marketing students Grant Kightlinger and Molly Grace, was originally developed as a single educational escape room kit for educators in Klamath County and Klamath Falls City school districts. Since then, the concept has expanded into a line of kits that address non-traditional subjects such as anti-bullying, drug and alcohol cessation, and nutrition. In the exercises students must solve a series of puzzles to escape the given scenario successfully, and expansion will make kits customizable to fit the needs of any classroom.

Mechanical Engineering students Carter Stewart and Emmett Allen of Ancile Systems developed the concept for the Automatic Field Tourniquet (AFT) to address the inefficiencies and limitations of traditional tourniquets used in emergency medical care. Using advanced technology, such as biometric feedback data, the automatic tourniquet activates with the press of a button and constricts until it stops traumatic bleeding. The design makes it accessible for many users in an emergency, including the elderly, children, and individuals with disabilities.

New this year are two competition tracks: business and technology. The winning projects were:

  • First Place Business Track – FairPlay Challenge, Grant Kightlinger and Molly Grace: $5,000 prize
  • First Place Technology Track – Ancile Systems, Carter Stewart and Emmett Allen: $5,000 prize
  • Second Place Business Track – Kekoa Kustoms, Cody Dubray: $3,000 prize
  • Second Place Technology Track – Battery-Operated Cattle Iron, Ben Goodwin, Risa Thompson, and Taveon Malnack: $3,000 prize
  • Klamath IDEA Entrepreneur in Action – Oregon Dynamics, Fletcher Stults and Graeme Wiltrout: $1,000 prize
  • People’s Choice – FairPlay Challenge: $1,000 prize

Additionally, FairPlay Challenge and Solar Energy Protection Technology (Adama Toure) received the Invent Oregon (InventOR) award to develop their business plans further and compete against other colleges and universities in the statewide InventOR competition in June. Ancile Systems will attend InventOR as a Rogue Community College alumni team. Selected teams are awarded an initial $500 prototyping grant and invited to an intensive state-wide boot camp to help bring their ideas into reality. Participating teams are eligible for an additional $2,000 in grants and compete for $30,000 in prizes.

The 2024 event was made possible through generous sponsorship and donations from Avista, the City of Klamath Falls, Cypress Creek Renewables, Klamath County, Klamath County Economic Development Association (KCEDA), Klamath IDEA Center for Entrepreneurship, Oregon Small Business Development Center, Sky Lakes Office of Strategy & Innovation, VertueLab, and the Wendt Family Foundation.

For more information about the Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge, visit www.oit.edu/catalyze.