SOEST graduate students place second in UH Breakthrough Innovation Challenge

On November 15, the Shidler College of Business’ Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) conducted the final round and announced the winners of the 2018 University of Hawai‘i (UH) Breakthrough Innovation Challenge.

Nic Ulm and Bradley Beeksma, graduate students in the SOEST Department of Ocean and Resources Engineering, took home the second place prize of $1,000 for Dive Buddy, a drone that eliminates the need for tow-lines on dive flags, giving divers the freedom to focus on safety and research unhindered.

While diving for UH’s scientific diver course, Ulm was frustrated by having to carry technical equipment and an awkward tow-line for a dive flag, all while keeping track of his dive partner. He thought the whole situation would be a lot safer if a dive flag drone was able to automatically track and follow him from the surface, eliminating the need for a tow-line.

“We found that nothing like this exists, so as graduate students in the Ocean & Resources Engineering Department, why not go ahead and build it ourselves?” the duo wrote.

This year’s challenge was sponsored by one of the State’s largest CPA firms, Accuity LLP. Nearly 80 people from the UH and the community attended the event, which was held at the Waialae Country Club.

Prior to the final event, contestants, who are UH students, submitted a 2-minute video in which they detailed their breakthrough idea and its market potential. A preliminary judging panel selected five finalists. PACE then matched the finalists with coaches from the local business community to help the teams further identify commercial opportunities for the idea and develop a five-minute presentation.

The finalists presented their ideas to a judging panel comprised of Dana Cotter, Director of Portfolio for Elemental Excelerator; Julia Okinaka, President of Accuity Consulting Services; Tarik Sultan, Managing Partner of Sultan Ventures; and Susan Yamada, Director of UH Ventures for the UH System. The panel was tasked with determining a first and second place winner.

Read more about the competition in the Shidler announcement.