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Two College of Engineering Teams Make It to Finals of Innovation Challenge on April 6

Julie Bliss Mullen

Julie Bliss Mullen

Two of the seven teams competing in April for the finals of the University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge are from the College of Engineering. This year-long series of entrepreneurial competitions will climax on April 6 at 5:00 p.m. in the Campus Center Amherst Room, when the seven teams of finalists will be competing for $65,000 in funding to support their ventures. Thus far, during the 12th year of the annual Innovation Challenge, 61 pitches have been heard, and a total of $17,000 has been awarded to promising and enterprising ventures. The two engineering teams will be pitching an economical water-treatment device for community water systems and an inexpensive blood-analysis tool for dialysis patients. See Innovation Challenge website: Innovation Challenge Finalists: Announcing the Top 7 Ventures on Campus!

The Innovation Challenge is a series of competitions designed to help and reward UMass students and young alumni who want to pursue novel business ideas and develop them into marketable products. The Berthiaume Center, which sponsors the Innovation Challenge, received 25 competitive applications for the recent semi-final held on March 1, out of which the top seven teams of entrepreneurs on campus have been selected to compete in the final.

“The audience of the Innovation Challenge Final on April 6 will hear pitches from the greatest variety of ventures we have seen thus far that take their roots in departments all over campus,” according to the Berthiaume Center. “The finalists include six Ph.D. candidates, one Master’s student, and 10 undergraduate students in Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences, Management, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Veterinary and Animal Sciences, and Chemistry.”

Two of the final teams originate from the College of Engineering:

Julie Bliss Mullen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, and she will be pitching ElectroPure. She has developed a water treatment device at a competitive price and aimed at homes and small community systems such as schools to combat diverse water quality issues.

ARBioDesign members Rune Percy and Alex Smith won $500 at this year’s Seed Pitch and are pitching their idea again at the final. ARBioDesign is developing a device that can quickly, easily, and inexpensively analyze a drop of blood to improve current, outdated dialysis treatment.

The remaining five finalists are from various departments across campus:

Ag Rowe Intelligence, proposed by Paul O’Connor and Levi Lilly, makes automated data collection and analysis systems for agricultural research, production greenhouses, and golf courses.

Sygentic is a startup with a vision to provide the world with safe, effective, and resistant-free products to address the world-wide danger of antibiotic resistance. Sygentic is headed by graduate student Ryan Landis.

Ph.D. candidates Felipe Navarrete, Pablo Visconti, Ana Maria Salicioni, and David Martin will be pitching StarSperm, a product that addresses male fertility issues. Their research has the potential to replace current standard media and to revolutionize Assisted Reproductive techniques in different mammals for benefit of humans.

App Outreach LLC consists of Isenberg undergraduates Aleric Heck, Davis McVay, Rich Sadick, Jordan Ames, Matthew O'Connor, and Lauren Tse-Wal. The proposed venture provides all-inclusive mobile marketing services to help app companies consistently reach high quality users at scale and on demand.

FiB is a venture that has received a lot of attention this year for its Chrome extension that detects fake news on Facebook. A controversial topic coming to a head after this year’s election sparked graduate student Nabanita De to solve a serious media issue. (March 2017)