Cal Poly’s Innovation Quest Competition Awards $30,000 to Student Startups

SAN LUIS OBISPO — An interdisciplinary team of four Cal Poly students earned the $15,000 first-place prize in Cal Poly’s 13th annual Innovation Quest (iQ) Competition for their startup Mantis Composites, a company that is developing carbon fiber 3-D printing technology to provide full service design-to-manufacturing of high performance materials for automotive, aerospace and biomedical applications.

Aerospace engineering students Ryan Dunn and David Zilar, materials engineering student Michael Chapiro, and electrical engineering student Michael DeLay have been working on Mantis Composite for a year and half and participated in Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator program last year. Their platform allows customers to create composite parts for machines and devices with stronger, lighter and more intricate geometry than current technologies allow.

More than 150 applicants representing 43 teams from across campus competed for $30,000 in this year’s iQ competition. Twelve finalists teams were selected to present their ideas to a panel of judges with a broad range of entrepreneurial experience.

“We were very impressed by the caliber of innovative startup ideas that emerged for this competition and the maturity of prototypes and products being developed,” said Thomas Katona, assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship in Cal Poly’s Biomedical Engineering Department. “We had a fantastic spectrum of product ideas, including water management technologies, digital marketplace platforms, and fundamental materials development. This competition showcased Cal Poly’s top student startups and the polytechnic spirit.”

Sociology major Luke Fox and his business partner, Michael Taylor, won second place and the $10,000 Rich and Jackie Boberg Innovation Award for their startup, DroneFox, an invention designed to help emergency personnel detect, identify and intercept unauthorized drones.

Business administration majors Lucas Toohey and Matt Twohig, computer science student Annie Liu, and computer engineering students Jacob Copus, Justin Cellona and Nikhil Ahuja took third place and $5,000 for ObserVR, a virtual reality application that allows a user to stream multiple 2-D videos in a 3-D environment, creating an immersive environment for simultaneously viewing multiple eSport or sporting events.

The top three teams are invited to interview and compete for the CIE’s SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator program, a 13-week intensive business launch program. Accepted teams receive $10,000 to help fund their startup, are paired with experienced mentors, and receive workspace and business guidance throughout the summer.

Cal Poly graduates and business leaders founded iQ as a nonprofit philanthropic corporation to create a mechanism for Cal Poly students to apply their skills and innovative ideas to create companies and jobs and to build a culture of social responsibility. Since its inception, iQ has awarded more than $375,000 and alumni companies of the iQ program have begun to financially support the competition.

“Parsons is pleased to have sponsored Cal Poly’s iQ competition for the third consecutive year, and we congratulate this year’s winners for their ingenuity and success in translating skills they learned in the classroom into innovative products and business ideas,” said Chuck Harrington, Parsons’ chairman and CEO. “As a global engineering, construction, technical and management services firm, we understand the importance of empowering today’s youth through innovation and learning.”

Half of the 32 award winners over the last 10 years are still in business, including Grinds Coffee, InPress Technologies, RepairTech and Higea Inc.

For more information about iQ and the winners, go to:

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