PSU Cleantech Challenge returns to TechFest NW in 2020 with seven contenders
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: December 18, 2019

PSU Cleantech Challenge team Open Source Rocket Academy pitches judges during the semifinal round.

This week, seven student teams from Portland State University were selected to advance to the final round of the 2020 PSU Cleantech Challenge and compete for more than $10,000 in grants and prizes. The teams will spend the coming weeks developing prototypes for their innovations — all aimed at addressing key environmental challenges. They will make their final pitches at TechFest NW on April 3, 2020 at PSU’s Viking Pavilion. 

Each team participating in the eighth annual PSU Cleantech Challenge will receive a $1,500 protoptyping grant to develop their ideas, all of which are addressing the social, environmental, and economic challenges of the region. Presented by the PSU Center for Entrepreneurship, the Challenge is an inspirational cornerstone of invention and entrepreneurship education at PSU, driving students to achieve success outside the classroom. 

The seven finalist teams represent schools and department from across Portland State and were selected after pitching their ideas to a panel of judges who scored them based on the viability of the concept and its potential to make a positive impact. 

The seven competing teams include: 

  • Theory Parking: a team of engineering students with a solution to eliminate the time and wasted emissions associated with driving around looking for parking 
  • UVM: a team of engineering students with an idea for a door mat that would sanitize shoes using ultraviolet light for use in food preparation and medical settings 
  • EnviroPlasma: environmental engineers looking to replace landfills with a closed-loop plasma gasification system that would superheat garbage reducing it to base materials 
  • Eco Archi-Tect: students from the School of Architecture are taking waste plastics and using it as the building blocks for furniture, art and shelter. 
  • Open Source Rocket Academy (OSRA): a multidisciplinary team committed to making amateur rocketry accessible for STEM education 
  • Carbon Negative Basalt Fiber: engineering and chemistry students comprise this team, working on a carbon-negative alternative to fiberglass insulation. 
  • Organic Carbon Capture: Engineering students team up with a botanist to use plants to capture carbon dioxide at scale in a portable system for use in urban areas. 

“The 2020 Cleantech Challenge teams are definitely bringing their A-Games,” said Juan Barraza, director of student innovation at the Center for Entrepreneurship at Portland State and lead organizer of the Cleantech Challenge. “We have a diverse field of very strong ideas and I can’t wait to see how far they get on these concepts before TechFest NW in April.”  

The top two teams from the PSU Cleantech Challenge will advance the 2020 Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge. The finals for that competition will take place in June at the Rogue Community College campus in Medford. 

To learn more about the PSU Cleantech Challenge, visit Information about the InventOR competition can be found at