Knowledge and solutions for a changing world

Chemical Engineering Seniors Take on the 2013 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge

After months of preparation, 20 teams of undergraduates from universities across Washington gathered to pitch their prototypes and business plans to judges at the 2013 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) on April 4. The EIC, an annual event sponsored by the UW's Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, encourages students who are passionate about clean technology to develop and present a product, process or service that reduces waste, minimizes energy consumption, and contributes to a healthier planet. Teams then present their plans and are judged on the problem they are addressing, their one-minute pitch to the judges, the prototype they demo, and their ability to articulate its potential for impact on the environment and success in the marketplace. This year's competition was held at the Seattle Center.

The Chemical Engineering Department has fostered student participation in the EIC in recent years by integrating it into the traditional capstone design project process. This year two senior design teams substituted the one quarter traditional capstone design experience for the opportunity to spend a year working with a professor on a product development project with the final goal of presenting their idea at the EIC competition.

Team “GoldyLochs” (Alysa Joaquin, Sarah Bonebright, Tiep Pham, and Reid Backstrom) supervised by Professor Daniel Schwartz, developed an environmentally-friendly gold nanoparticle hair dye, while Team “PolyDrop” (Volha Hrechka, Odin Jacobovitch, Scott Landro, Naomi Miyake, and Heather Milligan) supervised by Professor Lilo Pozzo, developed a paint additive that facilitates the use of carbon fiber composites in the transportation industry (teams pictured to the right). The student teams had full responsibility for the product development with tasks ranging from lab research to the development of a business plan and promotional materials.

Congratulations to seniors Odin Jacobovitch, Scott Landro, Heather Milligan, Naomi Miyake, and Volha Hrechka (left), the minds behind “PolyDrop” and grand prize winners of the 2013 competition! Using a conductive polymer developed in the lab of Professor Pozzo, the team created an additive that can be added in small quantities to existing paints, transforming them into a light-weight alternative to metal-based conductive coatings. This product could be useful on aircraft and vehicles built from carbon fiber reinforced composites, which build up static charges that can interfere with electronic systems. The team was presented with a $10,000 grand prize award for their innovation. 

The teams will also participate in the 2013 Foster School of Business Business Plan Competition Investment Round on April 24.

For more coverage of the event and the subsequent business plan competition, see:

YouTube video by UW College of Engineering: "Capstone 2013 -- PolyDrop"
Student Teams Working on Environmental Innovation Inspire (Xconomy)

UW Innovations (King 5 Evening Magazine)

UW Environmental Innvation Challenge (Foster School of Business)

Environmental Innovation Challenge 2013 (UWTV; features ChemE undergrad Alysa Joaquin)

UW students pitch their business plans in competition (Seattle Times; features ChemE undergrad Alysa Joaquin)

2013 Environmental Innovation Challenge Photos