PSU's InventOR awards $30,000 in prizes and top honors to winning team from University of Portland
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: July 2, 2018

When all the dust had settled, the pitches made, and the prototypes demonstrated, a student team from University of Portland took home the top honors at the 2018 InventOR Collegiate Challenge last Friday for their specially designed silicone mat, called Produce Mate designed to extend the life of fresh produce and reduce food waste.

InventOR top winner Dagan Kay of Produce Mate with sponsors and organizersNow in its second year, participation in the statewide InventOR program grew from five participating colleges and universities in its first year to 11 schools this year, including community colleges. The competition, presented by Portland State University (PSU), was held on the campus of Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls.

For Produce Mate and the other competing teams, Friday’s final competition and awards was the culmination of many months of honing their ideas, developing and refining prototypes, and, in the final competition, going up against 21 other student teams from 11 colleges and universities across Oregon. InventOR is a statewide invention and prototyping competition that encourages students to develop solutions to the problems they see in their communities and translate those ideas into potential business opportunity. Teams were judged on the quality of their ideas, the strength of their pitches, and the viability of their prototypes.

Produce Mate, the winning team, was led by University of Portland student Dagan Kay, who developed the concept for the silicone mat that emits negatively charged ions that extend the shelf life of produce. The team will receive a $10,000 award plus $1,500 in legal services from Portland law firm and InventOR sponsor Stoel Rives.

“Invention-based businesses can be substantial contributors to Oregon’s economic growth.,” said Carol Dahl, executive director at the Lemelson Foundation, which is a lead sponsor of InventOR along with the PSU Center for Entrepreneurship. “The InventOR Collegiate Challenge helps create a pathway for students across the state to see themselves as inventor entrepreneurs and change agents in their communities.”  

In addition to the top prize, the following InventOR awards were presented:

  • A second-place prize of $5,000 was awarded to Algotek, a team from the University of Oregon that developed an algae-based plastic that dissolves in water.
  • The award for the best prototype, worth $5,000, went to Halo Holds, a team from Oregon State University that came up with a high-tech solution for climbing gyms.
  • The $2,500 Impact Award for most potential positive impact went to UO’s Algotek.
  • Produce Mate also won the award $2,500 award for the best pitch.
  • The best community college team award, $2,500, went to Mission Franklini, a team from Rogue Community College, with a system for tracking bee populations.
  • Attendees voted OSU’s Halo Holds as the People’s Choice, an award worth $2,500.
  • A group of 150 high school students who attended the event selected their own winner. The Student’s Choice award went to LYFE Tech, a team from Warner Pacific University that developed a system to deploy Kevlar vests in the event of a school shooting.

“With 11 participating colleges and universities, InventOR demonstrates that innovation and entrepreneurship is happening everywhere across the state,” said Kate Sinner, innovation and entrepreneurship manager for Business Oregon, the economic development department for Oregon and another of InventOR’s sponsors. “We see InventOR as a fantastic example of the shared opportunity for innovation in both urban and rural Oregon.” 

InventOR grew from just 10 teams competing in 2017 to a field of 21 teams in 2018. Over the course of the year, students participated in preliminary invention competitions on their home campuses before advancing to the final InventOR Collegiate Challenge. All qualifying teams received $2,500 to fund the development of their prototype before the finals.

“The creativity and ingenuity of these students is a hallmark of the entrepreneurial spirit that drives Oregon’s economic engine,” said Melissa Freeman, director of strategic projects for The Oregon Community Foundation, a partner in the statewide InventOR initiative.  

The Center for Entrepreneurship team at Portland State Is already hard at work for the 2019 InventOR Collegiate Challenge with plans to involve students from additional Oregon schools and holding the final competition back in Portland next June. New sponsors for the competition include the Oregon Lottery and Stoel Rives.

“Invention, entrepreneurship, innovation, community engagement: these are qualities that all students should have the chance to develop during their university career,” said Rahmat Shoureshi, president of Portland State University. “I’m proud to see this PSU-grown competition supporting students from across the state on the pathway to become leaders in Oregon and beyond.”

About InventOR: The InventOR Collegiate Challenge, which grew out of Portland State University’s CleanTech Challenge, involves colleges and universities from across the state. Presented by the PSU Center for Entrepreneurship, Inventor is sponsored by The Lemelson Foundation, Business Oregon, Oregon Community Foundation, the Oregon Lottery, and Stoel Rives.  Finals for this year’s competition were held at the Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech) with participants from 21 student teams representing 11 public and private colleges and universities from across the state including: Clackamas Community College, Eastern Oregon University, George Fox University, Oregon State University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Portland Community College, Portland State University, Rogue Valley Community College, University of Oregon, University of Portland, and Warner Pacific University.

To learn more about InventOR including the details about the competing teams and updates on the 2019 Challenge, visit