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Harnessing Innovation and Conservation


In the heart of the Pacific Northwest, nestled among lush forests and towering trees, a remarkable event known as Invent Oregon takes place. This student innovation competition is not your average startup showdown; it's a platform that encourages young minds to explore where innovation and conservation meet.


Some of the remarkable innovations that emerged from this year’s competition were driven by the passion to harness the innate harmony of nature and technology, with a focus on preserving the environment. “Our energy needs are growing every day, and we need to get away from high pollutant, fossil fueled energy production,” Jonathan Humphries, a current student innovator explains.


Imagine walking through a forest, surrounded by nature's beauty, and with every step you take, you're not just connecting with the environment – you're also generating electricity. This is the ethos of “Next Step Energy”, an enterprise that's revolutionizing how we stay connected whether we are in the city, or in the great outdoors. The team consists of Jonathan Humphries, Sophavid Choum-Starkey, and Joanna Clark who are Math, Science & Engineering students at Umpqua Community College. They have developed a groundbreaking technology that captures the kinetic energy produced as you walk, and then stores it in a portable battery that allows you to charge your devices – be it a smartphone, laptop, or any other gadget. Whether you're hiking in the wilderness or strolling through a bustling urban center, “Next Step Energy” ensures you're never disconnected due to a dead battery.


Tackling the same problem are the founders of “Hazer Cat Engineering”, Jason Tams and Jonathan Wright, who are both pursuing Mechanical Engineering degrees at Rogue Community College. This innovative team is on a mission to redefine how we think about power packs for our electronic devices. Enter the "Smart Brick," a marvel of engineering that promises to be a game-changer for anyone on the go. The “Smart Brick" is more than just an external battery; it's a compact powerhouse equipped with advanced features. Not only does it provide extra life for your devices when you need it most, but it also incorporates GPS, TV, and a wide range of electronic functionalities. Whether you're on a remote adventure or navigating the concrete jungle, the “Smart Brick” keeps you powered and connected.


Taking a slightly different approach to conservation, is "Juniper Joy," a company created by passionate innovator, Claire Lowry, who is a Business Management student at the Oregon Institute of Technology. The western juniper tree, a native of the Pacific Northwest, has long been valued for its medicinal properties. However, it is also a highly invasive species. “Juniper Joy” is seeking to not only manage the western juniper tree population, but also celebrate its remarkable healing potential. They focus on creating a range of products that highlight the tree's medicinal properties, primarily through the extraction of essential oils from its berries via distillation. These essential oils have various therapeutic benefits, from promoting relaxation to aiding in respiratory health. By responsibly managing the juniper tree population and utilizing its resources, “Juniper Joy” is not only a business, but also a steward of the environment.


As we celebrate these remarkable innovations, we are reminded that the path to progress need not pave over our natural surroundings, but can instead harness its innate power. Enterprises like “Next Step Energy”, “Juniper Joy”, and “Hazer Cat Engineering” demonstrate how inspiration drawn from the natural world can help create a sustainable future. Invent Oregon serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring future generations to think beyond traditional boundaries and find innovative solutions that benefit both humanity and the environment.


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