CAES launched this annual competition in summer 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, to promote the innovation pillar outlined in the CAES Strategy, although the event combines elements of all 3 CAES strategy pillars – research, education, and innovation. Everyone in the CAES community is eligible to participate in the annual competition – students and faculty at the universities and researchers at INL – and it is open to all levels of ideas, from early-stage concepts to investment-ready research. Entries were judged on overall merit of the effectiveness of the pitch rather than the readiness of the technology they pitched.
Winners announced in CAES’ annual pitch competition
A faculty member from Idaho State University and two researchers with Idaho National Laboratory (INL) emerged as the winners of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies’ annual pitch event. CAES Annual Pitch Event 2021: Pathways to INL Net Zero was designed to help the research community at INL’s Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) develop and hone the skills needed to effectively pitch technical ideas or solutions, and to help INL accelerate its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2031.
“We were excited to have the CAES Annual Pitch Event for the second year in a row, and for the first time leverage the capabilities of the CAES universities and INL toward INL’s ambitious carbon-neutrality goals,” CAES Interim Director Terry Brog said.
Researchers from all of the CAES entities participated – INL, Boise State University, Idaho State and University of Idaho. The competition began in July with a call for ideas in three categories: projects that were ready to implement today, demonstration-level projects that require development before implementation, and an open submission category in which all ideas were welcome. Fourteen ideas advanced to the semifinals, and the contestants took part in training designed to help them more effectively pitch their ideas.
“We had a strong team supporting this challenge,” said CAES Innovation Advisor Michael Baskin. “INL trainers provided value proposition training, Rapid Idea Improvement Sessions, feedback in the semifinals and pitch coaching for the finalists. The developmental aspect of the challenge was as important as the impact aspect.”
The field was cut to eight for the final round, and each finalist was allotted five minutes to pitch their idea live before a panel of judges (see below) during the final competition Sept. 23. One winner was selected in each of the three categories. Each will receive $15K in research funding to help further develop their idea, and the runners-up also will receive funding to help advance their ideas. Here is a list of the finalists who received awards:
Track A: Demonstration Projects
- 1st place: Amey Khanolkar/INL, “Innovative Carbon-Free HVAC Systems using Nuclear Micro-Reactors at INL’s Site”: $15K
- Runner up: Naqsh Mansoor/Boise State University, “Energy Efficient Water Remediation via Flow Electrode Capacitive Deionization”: $13K
- 2nd runner up: Muhammad Usama Usman/INL, “INL Internet of Buildings (INL-IoB) Platform”: $10K
Track B: Implement Today
- 1st place: Benny Varghese/INL”, “Solar Covered Parking Spots”: $15K
- Runner up: Damon Woods/University of Idaho, “Infrared Thermostat”: $10K
- Second Runner up: Amey Khanolkar/INL, “Modernizing INL’s Buildings Using Electrochromatic Smart Windows”
Track C: Open Submission
- First place: Mustafa Mashal/Idaho State University, “Sustainable and Green Concrete Mixes for INL’s Infrastructure”: $15K
- Runner up: Michael Hoover/INL, “Essential Function Analysis Capability – Business Continuity”: $10K
The judges panel consisted of:
- Stephen Boorman, assistant general manager at Idaho Falls Power
- Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Integrated Energy Systems lead in INL’s Nuclear Science & Technology directorate
- Hayes Jones, Resilience and Security and Operations supervisor for the US Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program
- Mitchell Kerman, director of Institutional Planning and Programs at INL
- Deborah Tate, INL’s Campus Planning director
Inaugural event: 2020
The goal of the inaugural event was to teach the participants how to convince others – funding agencies, potential industry partners, or even investors – to take action in support of an idea. The competition began with 33 competitors. The field was cut to 18 in early September, and the finals featured 10 participants competing for cash prizes worth nearly $4,000. Each finalist had five minutes to pitch their idea to a panel of judges: INL’s Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology and Chief Research Officer, Dr. Marianne Walck; ISU Acting Vice President for Research and Economic Development Dr. Donna Lybecker; INL’s Industry Engagement Director and Chief Commercial Officer, Corey McDaniel; Nicolas Miller, Executive Director of the Venture College at Boise State University; and Nick Crabbs, Co-Chair of Boise Startup Week and Founding member of VYNYL.
Xingyue Yang, a visualization researcher at Idaho National Laboratory, won the $1,500 first place prize for her idea to use unmanned aerial vehicles to create enhanced visualization capabilities to train firefighting forces beat out nine other finalists in the competition. Yang’s pitch called for using an enhanced visualization capability that enables fire fighters and fire managers to visualize real-time wildfire simulations in a 3D/immersive environment. Drones with thermal sensors and cameras would collect the data and send it to supercomputers to run simulations. In addition to providing more effective and safe training and education for firefighters and managers, this enhanced visualization capability would provide real-time information for fire evacuation.
The second-place winner, INL Researcher Richard Skifton, won $1,000 for his idea: a sublime temperature sensor (STS) that measures temperature profiles by precisely locating specific temperatures of interest.
Bo Zhang, the third-place finisher, received $750 for his idea for a state-of-the-art electromagnetic shield that would allow for safer charging of electric vehicles.
Skifton also won the People’s Choice award, a $500 prize.
- CAES research community developed and honed skills needed to effectively communicate their work in short, dynamic, and engaging presentations while effectively pitching technical ideas or solutions
- Provided a platform for the research community to practice using these skills in front of a panel of technical experts and those connected with entrepreneurship
- Attracted CAESer interest in future entrepreneurship initiatives at CAES, provide a more public launch to the innovation pillar
- Delivered access to direct feedback on work throughout the process, providing the foundation for their evolution and improvement as well as future industry collaborations
- Supplied opportunity for participants to highlight awards and training, for their own advancement
CAPE: Baby Shark Tank provides participants with access to training to help develop the skills required to pitch innovative ideas more effectively. Participants will receive streamlined access to CO*STAR and RIIS training.
- CO*STAR, which stands for Customer, Opportunity, Solution, Team, Advantage, Results, is a method for turning ideas into powerful value propositions that was developed in Silicon Valley.
- RIIS stands for Rapid Idea Improvement Session, and it allows participants to engage in constructive feedback sessions with a diverse group of researchers that result in the development of ideas and, ideally, breakthrough innovations.
Proposed scope and structure
Effectively pitching an idea hinges on two components:
- Establishing the value proposition of the proposed idea to the target audience
- Communicating a complex idea to a non-expert
CAPE is open to all levels of ideas, pitched by anyone in the CAES community. Entries are judged on overall merit of the effectiveness of the pitch/presentation rather than technology-readiness level.
Here are abstracts for the winning pitches in the inaugural event:
Xingyue Yang: Visualize Real-time Wildfire Simulation Using UAVs
The proposed idea is to build an enhanced visualization capability that would allow firefighters and fire managers to visualize real-time wildfire simulations in a 3D/immersive environment, helping them to deal with fire related incidents more effectively than conventional methods. Drones with thermal sensors and cameras would collect data and send it to supercomputers to run simulations. A web server would pass simulations to a web-based platform where users would visualize it using their preferred device. This capability brings together fire information, including location, boundary, hotspot, air temperature, wind information, and fire simulations, on top of a real terrain. It would help with predicting fire directions, planning escape routes for firefighters, and identifying fire lines based on local environments, and it would reduce fire related injuries/damages, determine fire location quicker and more safely, and provide real-time traffic information for fire evacuations. The data gathered by drones would be used for future education and training purposes in universities and fire departments.
Richard Skifton: Sublime Temperature Sensor
The Sublime Temperature Sensor (STS) measures temperature profiles by precisely locating specific temperatures of interest. Through the process of sublimation and deposition, a solid material is housed in a long, thin tube and is gasified under vacuum when heated. Once the gas reaches the set temperature of the STS, the atoms will re-solidify as a ring on the inside of the tube. This is what it means to print temperatures. It is a paradigm shift on the way we think of temperature measurements: measuring the location of a desired temperature, rather then the temperature of a known location.
Bo Zhang: Electromagnetic Shield for Wireless Charging of EV
Wireless charging is an emerging charging technology for electric vehicle (EV). Compared to wired charging, wireless charging offers flexibility and no heavy charging cable. High power charging can reduce charging time, however, electromagnetic (EM) field safety surrounding the charging pad becomes a safety concern. This proposal here provides a state of the art EM shielding solution for high power wireless charging, with 2 international patents available.
The other finalists were:
- Amir Ali, Idaho State University
- Mostafa Fouda, Idaho State University
- Rajiv Khadka, Idaho National Laboratory
- Casey Kovesdi, Idaho National Laboratory
- Mustafa Mashal, Idaho State University
- Anna McCarrey, Idaho National Laboratory
- Bhaskar Mitra, Idaho National Laboratory