A clean energy generator, a video-aided laryngoscope, and a cooling prosthetic socket caught the attention of judges at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) venture competition Tuesday. EnVault, the student team that created a zero-emissions portable generator, won the top prize at UTSA’s $100,000 Student Technology Venture Competition.
UTSA’s Center for Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (CITE) hosts the annual competition to give students hands-on experience as early-stage entrepreneurs. CITE is an interdisciplinary center in UTSA’s Colleges of Business and Engineering formed in 2007 to create a pipeline for UTSA faculty, students and the surrounding business community to develop new technology ventures. The top three teams will have access to a prize pool of more than $100,000 in funding and in-kind services to launch their new companies.
Teams of interdisciplinary students work throughout the semester to develop a technology prototype and business plan for a new company. Of the 15 teams that initially applied, five finalists emerged to pitch products that ranged from health technology applications and medical devices to the winning zero-emissions portable generator from the EnVault team. The panel of judges reviewed each team’s product in a morning symposium in which business and engineering students presented their senior design projects.
The first-place EnVault team consists of Noah Bemisderfer, Robert Chavez, Nestor Falcon, Bobby Reyes, and Jack Williams. C-CAM Technologies (Albert Keam, Matthew Burgess, Carlos Castaneda, and Caleb Haeussiee) presented their idea for a video-aided laryngoscope to assist with intubation to win second place. Third place went to JNST Solutions (Natalie Coppala, Brittany Calvillo, Maggie Gerety, Toral Khajanchi, Jesse Kluckman, and Stefanos Roberts) for their prototype of a portable cooling device that can be embedded in the socket for a lower limb prosthetic.
The two other finalists were the Mednovel team proposing the Indentapen medical device that can aid in speech and vocal treatments and Statera Engineering’s medical device that can be used as a stabilizing handle to enable patients with tremors to use various objects.
The difference between first and second place was only two points, according to UTSA assistant professor and National Science Foundation (NSF) award winner Teja Guda.
“This shows how competitive and well prepared the teams have become,” said Cat Dizon, chief operations officer at venture firm Active Capital and one of the judges. “UTSA is building upon its foundation of innovation with these teams created as a result of the annual CITE competition.”
EnVault’s portable zero-emissions generator uses advanced lithium battery inverter technology and would replace diesel and gasoline-fueled power generators in mobile businesses such as food trucks, utility and recreational vehicles. The team expects to compete in a $4 billion market that grows by 3.3 percent each year, according to Bemisderfer.
“We plan to use the funding and services we won to help us with testing and certification of our generator,” Reyes said.
If there was a product like EnVault’s with a buyback cost of four to five years, San Antonio’s CPS Energy would consider buying the EnVault generator to power its fleet of trucks, said director of enterprise architecture and Innovation at CPS Energy Jason Scarlett.
“We see the potential for using this at CPS to reduce the emissions from our repair trucks, especially when they are idling to power a conventional generator,” Scarlett said.
Team mentor and EPIcenter program manager Andi Littlejohn was also excited about Envault’s proposed mobile clean-energy generator. EPIcenter, a hub for clean energy innovation based in San Antonio, extended membership to the EnVault team so that they would have access to mentorship and assistance as they develop their startup company.
“We also encouraged them to apply for EPIcenter’s incubator program, as the deadline for the next cohort is May 5,” Littlejohn said.
Since the competition’s inception, two winning teams from previous competitions, Leto Solutions and Invictus Medical, have demonstrated steady progress toward commercializing their products. A previous winner, InfraVein, has since received a $50,000 NSF grant to commercialize their product. In last year’s competition, an engineering team won top prize with an innovative winch.
The person who motivated the EnVault team of computer engineering and business entrepreneurship students to develop the winning concept is perhaps the most anxious to acquire the innovative generator. Matthis Herrera inspired the team with his tales of generator woes that power his fleet of four mobile dog grooming trucks for his business, Go Pawz Go.
“Today’s win for Envault gets me one step closer to getting these reliable, clean generators for my business,” Herrera said.
Featured image is of the first-place EnVault team members Noah Bemisderfer, Robert Chavez, Jack Williams, and Bobby Reyes. Not pictured is Nestor Falcon. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.