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2019 PSU Cleantech Challenge: Team sanctuAIRy
2019 PSU Cleantech Challenge: Team sanctuAIRy

Empowering Travelers to Breath Healthier Air 


“We are building a platform that can eventually generate a protected breathing zone in any dynamic environment, finally allowing customers a choice to take clean where we’re going.”


Team members: Arman Ahari, mechanical engineering; Elizabeth Hartman, MBA candidate at Willamette University; Mackenzie Doherty, mechanical engineering; Pradeep Ramasubramanian, PhD candidate, mechanical engineering.

1. Where did you get the inspiration for your Cleantech Challenge invention idea? 

(Narrated by Arman Ahari) On a flight from California, I found myself between two passengers exchanging coughs and sneezes for what felt like an eternity. As crippling an experience this situation may be, the environment I found myself in started a search for a means of eliminating the uneasiness that is inherit with public transportation.

Through months of online research, discussion, and ideation, I quickly learned the complexity behind controlling disease transmission aboard commercial aircraft. I came to a realization: experts have spent years attempting to control total volumes of contaminated air when in reality, the problem can appear before the environment has a chance to respond. A series of creative discussions with PSU Dean of Engineering, Richard Corsi contributed to a profound perspective on indoor air quality in dynamic, indoor environments. In the days following, it became clear that protecting users meant inventing a personal product that can directly dilute a user’s breathing zone with a flow of clean, filtered air. Through thoughtful ideation with co-founder Elizabeth Hartman, the sanctuAIRy wearable breathing zone was born. A shared passion for business strategy, coupled with complimentary skills in finance and engineering has grown to empower sanctuAIRy’s vision for improving the human environment.

2. As you prepare to pitch your idea and show off your prototype at TechFest NW in April, what are you most excited about?

We are excited to demonstrate the performance of our prototype and reducing user exposure to infectious disease. Allowing travelers autonomous control of a their immediate environment, we are eager to introduce a catalog of potential features to be added to the final product. We look forward to learning more about how members of our community interact with the device to improve the product’s comfort and versatility.

3. Who are your Cleantech Heroes? Who do you look to for inspiration?

  • My uncle, a business minded innovator in the MEMS industry.
  • My cofounder, Elizabeth.
  • Dean Richard Corsi
  • Dr. Elliot Gall
  • Rob Wiltbank
  • Stewart Read

4. Tell us about your team: How did you meet each other and how do you work together?

Every challenge that we have faced as sanctuAIRy is handled as a team. We know when to reach out to one another for help and feedback. One skill that has been strengthened throughout this competition is our ability to communicate. Navigating the 90 days would not have been possible without our ability to listen to each team member’s needs and actively validating any and all ideas. Some of our best strategy and product design inspiration came from conversations that thrived in the open and communicative culture we have created.

5. What’s the one thing you want the Cleantech Challenge judges to understand about your innovation (that will ensure your team will win the competition)?

We are building a platform that can eventually generate a protected breathing zone in any dynamic environment, finally allowing customers a choice to take clean where we’re going. This can allow vulnerable users the freedom to explore environments, minimize disease rate of transmission, and protect medical practitioners in hospitals. By linking innovative technology with thoughtful design, we hope adoption of this technology will localize solutions to respiratory problems in society.