InventOR competition awards $36k to fund student innovation
Author: Katy Swordfisk, PSU Media & PR
Posted: June 28, 2019
 Twenty-one teams spent weeks refining their prototypes and preparing to compete in the InventOR Collegiate Challenge. But in the end, only one team could walk away with the grand prize.

That prize went to The Reclaimers, a team from Oregon Institute of Technology, that built a prototype machine to convert plastic waste into crude oil.

The third-annual statewide event took place at Portland State University’s Viking Pavilion at the Peter W. Stott Center on June 28.

Teams came from schools across the state, having competed in a semifinal round in May. 

Finalists were given $2,500 to develop and build their prototype as well as work with community experts to refine their pitch and presentation.

All told, the teams came from 17 different colleges and universities. Two teams, Turner Automotive and Lite Devices, represented Portland State University. 

InventOR Projects were designed to solve social and economic challenges facing Oregon, in urban and rural communities.

"When we empower students to see themselves as inventors, it changes their perspective,” said Juan Barraza, who manages the PSU Center for Entrepreneurship and InventOR competition. “We don't believe the innovation is limited to any particular zip code in Oregon. Innovative ideas are everywhere, students just need the runway to launch them." 

Some of the student inventions include:

  • A solar-powered system ranchers can use at water troughs to track livestock and send alerts if animals go missing from Klamath Agricultural Solutions, a team from Klamath Community College.
  • From Rogue Community College, Printed Pet Prosthetics developed a 3D-printed prosthesis to give dogs a literal leg up.
  • SHIFT, from Oregon Health and Science University, that uses artificial intelligence to better detect disease.

"With InventOR, we create the sandbox,” Barraza said. “We give students $2,500 and 90 days to build something. We give them some mentoring and some training in patents and design thinking and team building. And then we get out of the way and see what happens. The results are always outstanding." 

In first place, the Reclaimers, received $10,000, as well as $2,500 in startup legal fees from Stoel Rives and a slot at the Bend Venture Conference in October.

Turner Automotive took second place, which included $5,000.

 Other awards include:

Student Choice Award, $1,000: The Reclaimers

Impact Award, $2,500: SHIFT

Best Community College, $2,500: Printed Pet Prosthetics

People’s Choice Award, $2,500: Turner Automotive

Best Pitch, $2,500: The Reclaimers

Visionary Award, $2,500: The Reclaimers

Best Prototype, $5,000: The Reclaimers