June 23, 2021, KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – Two student inventor teams are headed to the InventOR Collegiate Challenge. Biomass Gas and Electerro were awarded $2,500 each from InventOR at Oregon Tech’s annual Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge in April and invited to participate in the statewide InventOR competition June 25.

The Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge (InventOR) inspires the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs across Oregon, convening winners from preliminary campus competitions to compete for $25,000 in prizes. Projects showcase students’ solutions to pressing community needs in Oregon’s urban and rural regions — and beyond.

Biomass Gas is a team of six mechanical engineering students who built a machine that turns waste into power. Students Aaron West (graduated 2021), Darby Twight (graduated 2021), Michael Levi (graduated 2021), Cade Roske (graduated 2021), Liam Bliss (senior), and Travis Gardner (senior) built a machine that converts waste into power by breaking down organic material into fundamental building blocks, producing an explosive gas. This gas is burned within a generator to produce electrical power. Aaron shared, “We have had small-scale success with two previous versions of our prototype. The final prototype is tricked out with advanced automated control and will produce at least 15,000 watts of electrical power.”

Electerro is a natural tree structure with photovoltaic solar leaves and a vertical wind turbine to generate power designed by Mario Segura (senior, Mechanical Engineering, Honors Program) and Hanna Wolf (graduated 2021, dual Renewable Energy/Environmental Sciences; current graduate student, Renewable Energy Engineering). The wind turbine on the structure is a low wind speed optimized vertical wind turbine, the solar leaves have an advanced solar tracking system that increases power output, and there is a large battery storage system at the base of the tree that also makes it easy to integrate with consumers as an off-grid system.

“It’s really common to drive past clean energy systems like wind turbines and solar panels and think, ‘Wow, those look really cool,’” said Hanna. “But are they actually good for the environment?”

InventOR, Oregon’s only statewide invention competition hosted by Portland State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, returns in 2021 for its fifth year of student-pitched inventions and innovations. The finals are scheduled to take place June 25 in a virtual program that will be accessible to all. Access the live competition at https://www.inventoregon.org/ on June 25.