WWU teams wins $10,000 at UW Environmental Innovation Challenge

A team of six Western Washington University students won $10,000 for their NOVA Solar Window plan at the 6th Annual Environmental Innovation Challenge on Thursday, April 3 at the Seattle Center’s Exhibition Hall. 

The Western team won the $5,000 second-place prize sponsored by Puget Sound Energy and the $5,000 Clean Energy Prize sponsored by the University of Washington Clean Energy Institute.  The annual Environmental Innovation Challenge encourages interdisciplinary student teams to define an environmental problem, develop a solution, produce a prototype, and create a business summary that demonstrates the commercial viability of their product, process or service.  More than 90 collegiate teams competed in the contest.

Team members included Blake Bishop of Fairhope, Ala.; Christian Erickson of Lake Stevens; Josh Bennett of Bellingham; James Mayther of Olympia; Sarah O’Sell of Kenmore; and Jim Kintzele of Michigan City, Ind.

While the underlying technology behind the solar transparent collector has been in development for more than five years, the team, which formed in fall quarter, created the application, design solution, prototype and the commercial plan for the solar window. Bishop served as the project manager and solicited applications from some of Western’s Masters of Business Administration students to join the team. Other members were sought from Western’s Industrial Design and Electronics Engineering Technology programs. Faculty sponsors included Associate Professor of Finance and Marketing Ed Love and Professor of Chemistry David Patrick.

Kintzele spent long hours in the lab on the solar collector prototype, managing a team of five EET students helping him.  O’Sell built the prototype’s frame and provided conceptual designs as well as informational graphics.  Mayther was in charge of finances, strategy, and operations while Bennett created the team’s marketing and sales plan. O’Sell built the prototype’s frame and provided conceptual designs as well as informational graphics.

Next, the team will participate in the Investment Round of the UW Business Plan Competition on April 29, as one of only 36 teams to move forward from the Screening Round on April 10-13. They will pitch the NOVA Solar Window to judges in hopes to be considered one of the projects with the best chance of success in the real world and earn “funding” in the form of fictitious Buerk Bucks, given to the team the judges think has the best plan and real-world application. The 16 teams with the most Buerk Bucks will move on to the Sweet 16 round.