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ASU Innovation Open finalists announced; groups will compete for $100,000 top prize

Wearable tech, autonomous vehicles and nanoparticle coatings mark ASU’s inaugural inter-collegiate innovation competition

Ryan Leeper (left) and Kory Chinn

Ryan Leeper (left) and Kory Chinn, entrepreneurs from University of Arizona, present their pitch for Nunami Labs during the ASU Innovation Open semifinals. The team earned a spot as one of four finalists and will compete for a $100,000 grand prize April 2. Photo by Pete Zrioka/Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

February 21, 2017

ASU’s blueprint for building change makers includes generous measures of innovation and entrepreneurship — likely part of the reason it tops the U.S. News & World Report list of “most innovative schools.”

That innovative spirit is expanding beyond the university’s laboratories, maker spaces and residence halls with the ASU Innovation Open, a new technology venture acceleration competition designed to fuel multidisciplinary teams of collegiate founders. The grand prize, sponsored by Avnet, is $100,000 to move the winning enterprise forward.

Nearly three dozen teams — including groups from California, Hawaii and India — submitted video pitches and fielded tough questions from a panel of evaluators. The field was narrowed to 15 semifinalists this month. They're eligible to compete for four, $9,500 scholarships to Draper University, one of ASU’s key entrepreneurship education collaborators in Silicon Valley. 

Meanwhile, four finalists announced last week each will receive a $5,000 award from Zero Mass Water to prepare for the finals:

  • Nunami Labs, from the University of Arizona and recipient of the ZMW Sensors Award, is developing cutting-edge sensor technology that enables autonomous vehicles to understand their surroundings and make roads safer.
  • Somatic Labs, from both the U of A and ASU, and recipient of the ZMW Haptics Award, builds wearable haptic devices that augment human perception for uses including GPS navigation, caller ID and alerts.
  • Swift Coat, from ASU and recipient of the ZMW Materials Award, has developed coatings that range from less than 1 nanoparticle-monolayer thick to more than 1 mm thick, offering solutions for solar, glazing, filtration, display and sensor markets.
  • Rep Watch, from California Lutheran University and recipient of the ZMW Wearables Award, provides wearable technology that tracks physical therapy and fitness activities and a mobile app that helps users stay on track during injury rehabilitation and workouts.

Zero Mass Water CEO and ASU materials engineer Cody Friesen laid the groundwork for the Innovation Open.  

The core technology for Zero Mass Water — a solar panel that makes water out of air — was developed in Friesen’s ASU lab. An established entrepreneur whose work includes providing cost-efficient, sustainable power to remote areas around the world, Friesen’s long-term partnership with Avnet, a business-to-business technology distributor, enabled him to secure the company’s sponsorship for the open.

“The Innovation Open represents ASU’s commitment to valuing entrepreneurship in all of its forms,” said Fulton Schools of Engineering Dean Kyle Squires. “In this case, Fulton Schools has been honored to collaborate with Avnet, along with many other dedicated sponsors and ASU colleagues, to make this inaugural competition a success. Collectively, we are thrilled to have provided an impactful experience for all of the participating student founders who have come to compete from all over the Southwest and beyond.”

Final Four Demo Day

The ASU Innovation Open, hosted by Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, will take place on Sunday, April 2 from 1 – 4 p.m. in the Beus Center for Law and Society

Adam Goulburn, Partner at Lux Capital, will be the keynote speaker, with more than 200 entrepreneurial community leaders from Arizona, California and Colorado expected to attend.

The event is free and open to the public. Reservations are requested. 

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