PSU Cleantech Challenge selects semifinal teams to develop earth-friendly prototypes
Author: Christina Williams
Posted: June 3, 2015

The PSU Cleantech Challenge presented by Wells Fargo has narrowed down its field of competitors to six student teams who will use the summer months and $2,500 in competition funding to develop prototypes of their environmentally friendly innovations as they compete for $20,000 in final round awards. 

The six semifinal teams, each of which will be matched with a mentor, given access to workspace, and provided with other resources to further refine their ideas, were selected after the Cleantech Challenge pitching round last week. A panel of judges with expertise in cleantech sectors saw pitches from 13 diverse student teams, selected after an initial screen from the pool of 18 teams that entered the competition. Judge’s scores resulted in the selection of the semifinal competitors. 

Thanks to generous funding from Wells Fargo, the PSU Cleantech Challenge is expanding its reach statewide. This year, the challenge was open to all Portland-area schools and the semifinal teams include representatives from five different academic institutions. 

The semifinal teams are: 

  • Nick Carew, Nicholas Babcock, Michael Bettis, and Elliott Weinberg, students studying renewable energy and electrical engineering at the Oregon Institute of Technology, will develop an anaerobic digester with a water distillation system that can process waste, reduce methane emissions, produce clean water, and improve sanitary conditions.
  • Esther Forbyn, Environmental Studies Student, Reed College will develop a set of bilingual flashcards and an interactive website—30 Birds to Know in Portland/30 Pajaros Para Conocer en Portland—to make birding and wild areas accessible to underserved communities.
  • Ben Hendrickson, Joshua Olsen, and Nick Day, an interdisciplinary team of physics and chemistry students and their adviser, Morley Blouke, an imaging group researcher, all from Portland State, will create a smart and efficient solar power delivery system that will cut down the cost of power conversion.
  • Ben Kitoko, a student at Catlin Gabel, will develop “Compostable Composting,” an easy-to-use home composting bin made of materials that are fully compostable. 
  • Trevor Leake, Greg Morris, and Derick Thomas, a trio of PSU mechanical engineering students, will build a modular drone-mounted water collection system to improve field water sampling and enhance research capabilities.
  • Matthew Musgrave, a University of Portland business administration student will prototype audio equipment designed with local, environmentally friendly, reclaimed materials with a business model that gives back to environmental restoration groups.

“The pitching round was an exciting event and a great testament to the creativity and innovation in and around Portland,” said Quinn Read, PSU Cleantech Challenge project manager. “I can’t wait to see what the advancing teams are able to do over the course of the summer as they continue to develop their ideas.” 

After working on their projects during the summer months, the semifinal teams will make their final pitches and display their prototypes at the 2015 Oregon BEST Fest cleantech conference September 9-10 where the judges will select a grand prize winning team which will receive $10,000. Awards for second place ($5,000), people’s choice ($2,500), and best pitch ($2,500) will also be granted.

The 2016 PSU Cleantech Challenge will be open to student teams from schools across Oregon. To learn more visit