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Semi-finalists selected in 2nd annual PSU Cleantech Challenge
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: June 4, 2014

And then there were seven.

After competing in the Semi-Final Pitching Round, seven teams of Portland State University (PSU) students and instructors were selected to advance to the prototype phase in PSU’s second annual Cleantech Challenge.

The pitching round earlier this year saw 15 diverse teams pitching their ideas to a panel of judges drawn from the cleantech industry. The semi-finalists teams will each receive $2,500 and spend the summer building prototypes of their environmental innovations. 

The seven teams will display their prototypes at the Oregon BEST FEST in September where they will compete for the $25,000 prize cache. 

“We were thrilled to see so much cross-campus collaboration,” said Quinn Read, Cleantech Challenge project manager. “Our list of semi-finalists includes teams representing a wide variety of disciplines.  We have engineering students working with business students, and collaborations between faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates.” 

Each semi-final team will be assigned a mentor and have access to work space on campus. Teams will also receive financial assistance to attend start-up events to further refine their projects. 

 The semi-finalist teams are: 

• Sarah Shannon, MBA Student; Nathan Nguyen, Owen Killingsworth, and David Dang, undergraduate engineering students. They are working on “The Portland Shower,” a way to reduce water consumption by recycling shower water in a safe and easy open-loop system. 

• Alex Bigazzi, transportation researcher and graduate student in Civil Engineering. He will develop “The Portland ACE,” a portable, low-cost, networked device for assessing cyclists’ exposure to air pollution. 

• Benjamin Hendrickson, graduate student in applied physics; Morley Blouke, researcher and graduate adviser, PSU Imaging Group; and Josh Olsen, undergraduate physics student. They will develop prototype circuit designs to increase the efficiency and lower the cost of solar cells by using AC voltage.

• Andrew Thorsvik, graduate student in engineering and technology management; and Jonathan Thorsvik, a Central Washington University alum in electrical engineering and computer science. They will build a super-capacitor, lithium-ion automobile battery to replace traditional lead acid batteries. 

• Craig Lardiere, Matt Meeks, Sam Mohler, and Matt Martinez, all undergraduate mechanical engineering students. They will develop a prototype for automated external shades to reduce heat gain through windows and lower electricity use during peak hours.

• Margarette Leite, assistant professor of architecture; Josiah Henley and Trevor Stephens, architecture graduate students; and Kevin Chavez, architecture undergraduate student. They will develop prototype green building products for the construction industry using otherwise non-recyclable waxed cardboard.

• Asif Rahman, adjunct professor in computer engineering; and Carl Weinberger, software engineer. They will work on heat retentive materials and digital controls to increase efficiency of solar-powered Stirling engines. 

The competition is made possible by generous support from lead sponsor Wells Fargo, along with support for product development grants from the PSU Bookstore and the Ecoworks foundation. Oregon BEST and Portland State University provide additional support to the Cleantech Challenge. 

The competition follows a highly successful inaugural year for the Cleantech Challenge, which wrapped up last September with two teams sharing the $25,000 grand prize.

To learn more about the challenge, visit