Friday, November 16 , 2018, 4:53 am | Fair 47º


Water-Sampling Device Beats Other Finalists For Top Prize at UCSB’s New Venture Competition

Six student startups presenting an impressive array of technology innovations competed in the year-long competition’s finals

David Hwang speaks on behalf of Opal during Thursday’s New Venture Competition finals. The three graduate students in UCSB’s materials program designed and developed high-resolution displays for electronic devices that are significantly more efficient than today’s battery-sucking screens.
David Hwang speaks on behalf of Opal during Thursday’s New Venture Competition finals. The three graduate students in UCSB’s materials program designed and developed high-resolution displays for electronic devices that are significantly more efficient than today’s battery-sucking screens.  (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

Today’s methods of sampling water, explained UC Santa Barbara chemical engineering student Rahul Sangodkar, are expensive and difficult to execute, making it hard to pin down the true effects disasters like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill have on the environment.

The solution that Sangodkar and his fellow students Kyle Neumann, Edixon Puglisi, and Anjana Krishnan devised was OSMO, a water-sampling device the size of a coffee maker that Sangodkar said has significantly lower costs and labor requirements than traditional methods, and provides an unprecedentedly comprehensive set of data on the water it samples.

Despite impressive competition from five other student tech startups, OSMO went on to win UCSB’s 17th-annual New Venture Competition, held Thursday afternoon in campus’ Corwin Pavilion.

The competition by the university’s technology management master’s program runs from October through the spring and is intended to provide students with the understanding and experience necessary to launch their own startups companies.

The OSMO team won the UCSB New Venture Competition finals Thursday night. Click to view larger
The OSMO team won the UCSB New Venture Competition finals Thursday night.  (UCSB TMP photo)

More than a dozen teams, made up primarily of graduate students from various disciplinary fields, were whittled down to six for Thursday’s finals. During fall quarter, groups formed their ideas and business concepts before taking intensive courses in the winter and developing a business model.

Over 60 business and investment mentors from the region guided the teams, which began presenting and pitching their ideas in the spring.

Judging the ventures were established entrepreneurs and investors from a variety of industries.

OSMO’s target market, Sangodkar said, is academic institutions, two of which, UCSB and Oregon State University, have already expressed a willingness to fund the venture.

Each sampler costs $1,300 to produce, will be sold at a price of $5,000, and has a lifetime of three years. A single device can be left sampling water and collecting data, Sangodkar explained, for up to an entire year.

Taking second place and a people’s choice award was Vibe, a glove that senses its surroundings and transforms what it “sees” into vibrations that visually impaired wearers can use to interpret their surroundings.

The team behind it, said technology management student Kelsey Judd, has already successfully beta tested the product with a handful of the 1.3 million visually impaired people in the United States.

Opal, a high-resolution display using individual red, blue, and green LEDs, aimed to tackle the problem of today’s electronic devices’ battery-sucking screens.

Materials student David Hwang explained that their display’s 50-percent efficiency was a huge step up from current models, freeing up physical space within a device and allowing power to be redirected to other applications.

Dermachill’s mission “is to make the world more comfortable in its skin,” said economics and accounting student Chris Keane. The handheld, rechargeable device, which won the other people’s choice award, creates a cold sensation that eczema sufferers can apply to their skin to eliminate itching.

Cold and itching, the team explained, are two mild forms of pain, and Dermachill stops itching by taking advantage of the brain’s ability to only focus on one source of pain at a time.

A team of environmental science and management students devised EVMatch, which pairs electric-vehicle drivers with folks who have charging stations in their homes.

Limited access to charging stations is one of the primary disincentives for drivers contemplating buying EVs, they found, and EVMatch solves the problem by taking advantage of the burgeoning sharing economy.

A second team of environmental science and management students turned organic waste into paper products with InGrain. Aimed primarily at the craft beer industry, which the team said is continuously looking for sustainability and marketing strategies that allow breweries to stand out, InGrain produces six-pack holders, coasters, and signage.

Many of the start-ups that have passed through the New Venture Competition have gone on to become successful companies, including BioIQ, a health improvement technology company, and TrackR, an app that allows one to keep track of important items.

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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