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2019 PSU Cleantech Challenge: Team Protechable
2019 PSU Cleantech Challenge: Team Protechable

Recyclable Head Protection for the Urban Commuter 


“We understand that a great concept alone will not save lives, it must be married with strong organizational strategy — we have a sustainability focus and a collective goal in providing safe, affordable, and accessible protective equipment.”

Team members: Sandeep Chandrasekhar, pursuing a Masters in Sports Product Design at UO; and Cecilia Baldiviezo, Natalie Watterson and Meng Xu, all MBA candidates at Portland State.

1. Where did you get the inspiration for your Cleantech Challenge invention idea?

When the e-scooter ride-sharing program began in July 2018, we noticed that the majority of the users did not wear helmets while riding.  Similar observations occurred with the bike-share program, especially during the summer months.

After further deliberate research, our team noticed that current helmets in the market- which have remained standard over the past few decades - have extremely poor biodegradable properties. Additionally, they have high volume and are difficult for people to carry around.

Globalism has continued to spread and urban areas have become increasingly populated. This has resulted in an emphasis on urban sustainability. Constructing products with improved environmental properties has been identified as valuable to our communities, and is something we intend to deliver with our helmets.

2. As you prepare to pitch your idea and show off your prototype at TechFest NW in April, what are you most excited about?

We are excited to continue our organizational mission of improving the safety of individual transportation in dense regions.  We are ready to showcase our collective body of work — from primary research to ideations and concept development leading up the prototype. Our goal at TechFest NW is to increase awareness of the dangers associated with micromobility and showcase a sustainable solution that has the potential to save countless lives.

3. Who are your Cleantech Heroes? Who do you look to for inspiration?

Elon Musk (CEO, Tesla) and Pasquale Romano (CEO, Chargepoint, Inc.) have had tremendous influence on our endeavors.  Both men have done an admirable job of incorporating sustainable technology in transportation, an industry where poor environmental practices have dominated over the past couple of generations. Electric vehicles and charging solutions help promote clean air in densely populated regions where many ride sharing services are located.  We hope to build off of their initiatives in promoting clean transportation practices.

Additionally, Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario’s relentless and genuine pursuit of environmentally friendly products and ventures has inspired us to develop products for the betterment of our planet. Her passion for donating money to environmentally friendly organizations and ensuring sustainable practices for the development of Patagonia products has provided us with a benchmark for quality cleantech practices.

Lastly, Portland State MBA alum Nat Parker (moovel North America) and his direct work with micromobility cleantech applications has inspired us.  We have directly met with him, as his company has provided a benchmark for establishing an international micromobility company from Portland.

4. Tell us about your team: How did you meet each other and how do you work together?

In Fall 2018, Sandeep Chandrasekhar, Natalie Watterson, and Meng Xu took a Pioneering Innovation MBA class at Portland State University.  Both Natalie and Meng are current PSU MBA students expected to graduate in June, while Sandeep is pursuing a MS in Sports Product Design at the University of Oregon in downtown Portland.  Both UO and PSU have a joint-campus collaboration, which allowed Sandeep to take that MBA class.

This class focused on lean startup methodology, the three of us came together to work on a business plan related to the ride sharing helmet problem. We conducted initial primary research — both market and product — and developed a 20-page business plan on the topic, which we presented in the Launch in 9 competition at the PSU School of Business. We got selected to advance in that competition and decided to continue as a team and pursue this work as our senior capstone. Following that presentation, we added Cecilia Baldiviezo to our team and divided our team structure as follows:

  • Cecilia Baldiviezo: Project Manager, Supply Chain
  • Sandeep Chandrasekhar: Project Coordinator, Product Development
  • Natalie Watterson: Strategy, Operations
  • Meng Xu: Marketing, Financials

Our team works well because we are so diverse in skills, culture, and perspectives. We respect each other and value honest opinions and suggestions. We find a nice balance with two members that have a background in engineering and two in business. We have also received some external assistance specifically around product development, supply, design, technology, and scientific help. We are continuously capitalizing on this assistance from subject matter experts leveraging their knowledge and resources to help us construct our product and conduct research.

5. What’s the one thing you want the Cleantech Challenge judges to understand about your innovation (that will ensure your team will win the competition)?

We want to Cleantech Challenge judges to understand that we have collectively worked with the Portland city transportation departments, micromobility transportation companies, and the city residents of ride sharing services to aid in the development of our product idea and mission. We want to be a part of forming a mutually beneficial solution that helps keep our community members safe and pushes forward advancements in the transportation industry.  

We have, and will continue to dive deep into the root of this problem stemming from inaccessible cranial protection. We have approached this problem from two angles, both product and business development. We understand that a great concept alone will not save lives, it must be married with strong organizational strategy. We want to emphasize our sustainability focus and our collective goal in providing safe, affordable, and accessible protective equipment. We believe in our mission and intend to continue going forward with it for the foreseeable future.