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Oregon Tech team wins first prize at Invent Oregon competition

Submitted photo Mario Segura and Hanna Wolf of OIT won first place at Invent Oregon with a device that uses solar panels and a vertical wind turbine that is designed to look like a tree, generating renewable energy without being an obstacle or an eyesore.

After winning first place at Invent Oregon — and scoring a $10,000 grand prize and a bid to a national competition organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — Oregon Institute of Technology graduate student Hanna Wolf and undergraduate Mario Segura are feeling good about their renewable energy product.

Wolf and Segura, who make up team Electerro, created a device with solar panels and a vertical wind turbine that is designed to look like a tree, generating renewable energy without being an obstacle or an eyesore.

“It’s not just your basic solar panel or wind turbine where there's a potential for harmful chemical leaking, heavy metal leaking and other aesthetics that cause psychological and optical issues to animals and even people,” Wolf said.

Electerro is more than a one-off prototype, however. For Wolf, it is the beginning of a renewable energy company with an environmental focus.

“I want to create things that have the potential to have symbiotic relationships between the energy system and the environment like renewable energy systems should,” Wolf said.

Wolf received her bachelor’s degree with dual majors in renewable energy and environment sciences last spring and is continuing on at OIT, pursuing a graduate degree in renewable energy engineering.

Segura, a self-described “aerospace guy,” is a senior mechanical engineering student whose passion lies in making humans a multiplanet species.

In spite of his and Wolf’s different career aspirations, Wolf’s excitement and the uniqueness of Electerro hooked him.

“We still need to remember that we need to take care of our home,” he said. “Even though my head is up in the clouds, we’re still here and we need to stay rooted.”

Wolf and Segura spent a month and a half designing the prototype, redesigning it, running calculations and doing material development.

They proceeded to build the project in four 13-hour days, which were sandwiched between Segura being out of town, before their summer internships and all while they had finals.

Team Electerro first showcased its product last April at the Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge, hosted by OIT, placing third out of five teams, earning them $2,000.

They also won the audience choice prize of $1,000 and were awarded $2,500 from Invent Oregon to further develop their business plans.

“After the Catalyze competition, we were facing the reality that maybe not everyone thought our product was as cool as we thought it was,” Wolf said. “So we were being realistic about the potential that we weren’t going to do as well at Invent Oregon.”

Wolf’s doubts about the product were put to rest after they placed first at Invent Oregon just two months after the Catalyze Klamath Falls Challenge.

Going forward, Wolf and Segura will be attending the Bend Venture Conference in late October, where they are looking to network, market their product and talk to investors. They will also participate in the national competition organized by MIT this fall.

Electerro will use the $10,000 they won from the Invent Oregon competition to finish their prototype and to apply for a design patent.

“Continuing on with the competitions,” Wolf said. “We will keep showing people what we’re so excited about and hopefully get many more people excited as well.”

Reach Mail Tribune news intern William Seekamp at wseekamp@rosebudmedia.com.