Student invention winners head to Bend for statewide startup investment conference
Author: Kurt Bedell, PSU Media and Public Relations
Posted: October 18, 2017

Two teams of student inventors head to Bend this week to pitch alongside industry entrepreneurs at a startup investment conference that invests nearly $4 million annually in promising companies.

These students will join more than 450 top entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders for two days of networking and educational opportunities and the chance to win angel investment funding for their projects. Held at the historic Tower Theatre, Bend Venture Conference is the largest startup investment conference in the West, the second oldest angel investment conference in Oregon, and has become the second largest in the country based on capital extended. 

The student teams from Portland State University and McKay High School in Salem were selected to participate after winning top honors at InventOR, a statewide innovation conference organized by PSU Center for Entrepreneurship. The student teams presenting at the Bend Venture Conference include:

  • NexGarden, a project that designed high efficiency aeroponic vegetable growing modules aimed at bringing simple, self-sustaining, local food production to businesses and consumers.The Nexgarden module monitors nearly every aspect of the plant’s environment, and is automated to adjust the inputs to these variables as necessary. Ultimately, crops are grown at maximum efficiency, using 99 percent less water than conventional agriculture and little to no physical waste. Nexgarden is led by Hugh Neri, a sustainability student at Portland State University.
  • RECYCL3D, a project that uses plastic recycled from schools to create 3D printing filaments. Students collect plastic from school lunch rooms, break it down and extrude it into filaments to be used by 3D printers. The team donates 50 cents to schools for every pound of plastic recycled to help generate revenue for school programs. Using the RECYCL3D process, plastic is diverted from landfills and repurposed to create value and help support schools. RECYCL3D is led by Luis Castro, Saul Martinez, Cristofer Flores, Lorenzo Alvarez, students at McKay High School in Salem, and Tyler Hull, an electrical engineering student at Portland State University.

InventOR is a multi-tiered statewide competition that inspires young people to identify and solve problems in their communities and highlight the importance of invention to Oregon’s economic growth. The first annual InventOR competition was held at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry on Oct. 10.

“Pulling together a statewide competition to celebrate innovation among aspiring new inventors for the first time is a dream come true,” said Juan Barraza, a PSU program manager who leads InventOR. “Portland State is proud to take a leadership role in fostering innovation and economic development across Oregon.” 

Sponsored by The Lemelson Foundation, Business Oregon and Portland State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, InventOR attracted competitors of all levels such as high school students, undergraduates, graduates, postdocs and faculty. Each of the five participating colleges started with seven to 18 teams at their own regional competitions earlier this year, selecting two finalists to compete at the InventOR Collegiate Challenge Finals. 

“Our entrepreneurial student inventors are going to be the creators, innovators, and builders of the next generation of great Oregon companies,” said Janet Soto Rodriguez, Business Oregon entrepreneurship strategist. “Supporting them now and driving interest in entrepreneurship is an investment in Oregon’s future prosperity.”

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