Cleantech Challenge finalists announced

The semifinal pitching round was held for Portland State’s annual Cleantech Challenge on Thursday at the PSU Business Accelerator.

The Cleantech Challenge is a contest that gives students the chance to turn their environmentally-friendly ideas into working prototypes in just 90 days. Fifteen teams, out of the 16 that initially applied, presented their pitches for a panel of judges in the semifinal round.

Quinn Read, project manager for the Center for Entrepreneurship, opened the event, speaking about the diversity of this year’s competitors.

“We have faculty members, students, [alumni] and partnerships with people in the business community. They represent departments all over campus from the business school to the schools of engineering, biology and social science,” Read said. “We are representing a pretty broad cross section of the PSU community.”

This year’s nine-member judging panel included some familiar faces from last year’s challenge, as well as some new faces and the two winners of the previous year’s competition. Judges included Brad Zenger, managing director at Pivotal Investments; Lester Lampert, co-founder of Diatomix; Anne Phillip, founder of Mobius MicroFarms; Dennis Powers, entrepreneur in residence at Oregon BEST; Greg Love, COO of Columbia Green Technologies; Surj Patel, CEO of Smart Mocha; Lori Heino-Royer, director of business operations at Daimler Trucks North America; and Erin Flynn, associate vice president for Strategic Partnerships at PSU.

Each presenting group was given 10 minutes in front of the judges—three minutes to pitch their idea and seven more for the judges to
ask questions.

The following teams presented on Thursday, but did not move on to the next round of the competition.

Nathan Falke proposed an idea for a collapsible cup that reduces waste from disposable cups.

Brandon Harris and Jason Schauer’s project involved biogas processors using methane from organic waste to generate electricity.

Sisters Samira and Sanaz Rezaei presented a method to separate lead from fertilizer waste to reduce groundwater contamination. Alexander Zent and Kevin Huggins described their idea, an affordable and small rainwater collection system made to reduce household water use. Daniel Wright, Craig Fairbaugh and Jacob Stone showed sand filtration, which removes heavy metals and organic compounds from waterways.

Emily Smith and Tom Bennett presented ice reservoirs and artificial glaciers used to combat the effects of climate change for watershed agencies and ski resorts.

Justin Hibbard proposed a way to kill viruses and bacteria on doorknobs with an electrical current and interference frequency.

Margarette Leite and Paul Vorapanich want to take difficult-to-recycle products from waste streams of large scale consumers in Portland, and repurpose them with little to no processing into products with market value.

After a short deliberation period, the judges notified the teams that would be moving on in the competition. Their decisions were made public the next day, May 30.

The following teams will receive a $2,500 grant for the summer and will go on to compete at Oregon BEST FEST.

Sarah Shannon, Nathan Nguyen, Owen Killingsworth and David Dang presented their project, the Portland Shower, which is meant to reduce the consumption of water by recycling shower water in an open loop system.

“Basically, after you push a button which starts sending water into the loop you can stand there for 45 minutes if you want, and it’s free,” Shannon said.

Alex Bigazzi submitted his creation, the Portland ACE, which is a low-cost portable device that assesses cyclists’ exposure to air pollution.

Benjamin Hendrickson, Morley Blouke and Josh Olsen presented their idea to create improved circuit designs in order to increase
efficiency and lower the cost of solar cells by using alternating current voltage.

Brothers Andrew and Jonathan Thorsvik pitched their plan to manufacture a super capacity, lithium-ion automobile battery to replace traditional lead acid batteries.

“We need batteries that put our health and the environment first,” Andrew said, “and that’s what we plan to deliver.”

Craig Lardiere, Matt Meeks, Sam Mohler and Matt Martinez proposed external automated shades to reduce heat gain through windows and lower the use of electricity during peak hours.

Margarette Leite, Josiah Henley, Trevor Stephens and Kevin Chavez Green discussed using unrecyclable waxed cardboard to build products for the construction industry.

Asif Rahman and Carl Weinberger presented an idea to use materials that retain heat and digital controls to increase efficiency of solar powered stirling engines.

The final round of the competition will occur at Oregon BEST FEST—the Northwest’s premier cleantech innovation conference—in September where one of these teams will win the grand prize of $20,000, as well as recognition as a cleantech innovator.