HydroSense, With Plan to Conserve Water, Wins UW Environmental Business Competition

4/2/09Follow @xconomy

University of Washington president Mark Emmert told a group of local business leaders last fall that two issues, above all others, can rally the intellectual energy of the institution’s students and faculty—environmental sustainability and global health. Yesterday, some of those students and researchers showed off their best business ideas for the environment and competed for a $10,000 grand prize in the first UW Environmental Innovation Challenge.

This competition drew 16 teams together with a wide variety of ideas. One business plan envisions refillable beverage containers to reduce litter from vending machines; another is an algae-based biofuels developer; and a third team proposes technology that uses liquid to coolelectronic devices.

“It was an excellent forum for students to use their talents in ways that might make the world a better place,” says Brad Parker, one of the judges.

With that, here are the winners:

Grand Prize, $10,000—HydroSense

This team won for its technology to provide consumers with real-time monitoring of household water consumption. It doesn’t use a mechanical device, and doesn’t require any pipe installation. Instead, HydroSense uses a device that screws on to a faucet. It gathers water usage data by tracking sound, vibration, and water pressure differences.

The seven-member team of students was led by Jon Froehlich, a doctoral candidate in UW’s Computer Science and Engineering department, and was joined by Tim Campbell, Kate Everitt, Alex Horton, Jianlei Shi, Rahber Thariani, and Conor Haggerty.

HydroSense stood out to the judges because it can provide convenient real-time monitoring of water usage, and can distinguish between different kinds of water usage, like that from sinks, showers, and toilets, Parker says. “It makes you aware, and awareness is the first step to changing people’s behavior,” he says.

Second Prize, $5,000—NanoCel

This team is developing technology to put liquid inside an inexpensive plastic heat sink that removes heat better than metal or silicon alternatives for cooling electronic devices. Heat failure is a growing problem as people keep getting more and more electronic gadgets in their lives. “As electronics, especially microprocessors, continue to increase in power and decrease in size, the inability to cool them down amplifies,” the company said in its business summary document.

NanoCel is led by Dustin Miller and Daniel Rossi. (It’s also advised by some notable local names, including Craig Watjen, an early Microsoft employee who’s now a director of Bellevue, WA-based Light Sciences Oncology, and Erik Benson of Voyager Capital.)

Third Prizes, $2,500 each:

Ecowell—This team proposes refillable drink containers to reduce litter from vending machines.

InTheWorks-These students are developing technology to cut emissions of boat motors.

Wind2O—This group proposes turning dirty water into drinking water by using wind energy.

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