Two Oklahoma State University students have earned national recognition by winning the TigerLaunch competition hosted by Princeton University for their startup business plan for Contraire, a predictive analysis control system designed to provide near real-time wastewater test measurements.
Entrepreneurship student Brooks Robison and environmental engineering student Rabecca Wiseman won first place in the TigerLaunch pitch competition hosted by Princeton in April in New Jersey. This comes after placing in the top four in the regional TigerLaunch competition in March and winning the Queen’s Entrepreneurs’ Competition at Queen’s University in Toronto in January. The team also placed third at the Baylor New Venture Competition in Waco in February as well as winning Best Finances, awarded by QuickBooks, at the event.
“I am extremely proud of the team,” said David Thomison, clinical assistant professor and George Kaiser Family Foundation Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship and Contraire advisor. “They worked hard for months, validating the municipality customer market problem and then aligning this innovative product service to satisfy this need in a true ‘win-win’ approach. Both Brooks and Rabecca are very mature, competitive and quality students who are working hard to make these possible.”
TigerLaunch, sponsored by the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, is the nation’s largest student-run entrepreneurship competition that brings together a network of student founders at the university, regional and national level. The competition combines networking, mentorship and funding opportunities to build an experience that competitors can carry with them.
“I really didn’t think we were going to win,” Brooks said. “After the second- and third-place winners were announced, I was thinking ‘dang.’ But Rabecca actually saw the check before they announced us as the winners, and she didn’t say anything to me. It’s always fun to win.”
Contraire, which won $15,000 from TigerLaunch, $10,000 at the Baylor New Venture Competition and $20,000 Canadian (about $15,000 USD) at the Queen’s Entrepreneurs’ Competition, consists of technology designed to assist wastewater treatment plants in reducing electricity usage by up to 45 percent, which can save on average $250,000 annually in utility costs.
Contraire also placed first at the 2018 Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup, winning $20,000 in the statewide competition.
“This started as a proposal from my master’s advisor,” said Wiseman, referring to Dr. Dave Lampert, assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering. “He wrote the proposal to the Environmental Protection Agency to find out how much electricity and money was being wasted at wastewater treatment plants and it turns out that it’s quite a bit.”
The current water quality test used by wastewater treatment plants, which determines the required aeration for wastewater to degrade contaminants, requires a five-day testing time for the biological oxygen demand. As an impact, operators often over-aerate to ensure they meet environmental permit limits. This delay results in unnecessarily high air uptake rates and treatment plants spending an unnecessary amount on electricity.
To read more about Contraire, click here.
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