The Portland-based Oregon Entrepreneurs Network on Tuesday awarded their annual Battle of the Schools Award, designed to showcase young entrepreneurs emerging from Oregon’s universities, to Portland State University student Blake Turner. The award was presented at 26th annual OEN Tom Holce Entrepreneurship Awards this week.
Turner is a PSU junior studying mechanical engineering but he’s also an entrepreneur who has invented a kit that can economically convert a gas-powered vehicle into a car that runs on clean-burning hydrogen. He’s building a company around the kit, Turner Automotive, with a mission to provide a cost-effective zero-carbon transportation option.
“I come from a family with not a lot of means so having this at our forefront means we’re able to build something that is successful for everyone,” Turner said from the stage as he accepted the award with his teammate Sean Krivonogoff, a PSU School of Business student and Mel Turner a PCC student.
Turner thanked the Lemelson Foundation, a major sponsor of the Invent Oregon competition that is run by PSU and that gave Turner Automotive his start. He also thanked Rogue Community College, where he began his education, and Portland State.
In addition to being the host of competitions including PSU’s Cleantech Challenge and the statewide Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge, the Center for Entrepreneurship hosts an incubator, The Cube, which is home to several student run startups including Turner Automotive.
“Blake is an amazing example of what students can achieve when they take the experiential learning we offer at PSU and pair it with opportunities to their ideas into actual prototypes and products through programs like the Cleantech Challenge and Invent Oregon,” said Juan Barraza director of student innovation for the Center for Entrepreneurship.
“Seeing Blake evolve from just building on idea from a class at Rogue Community College to
now where he sees himself as an inventor and an entrepreneur validates our assumptions that access to resources and mentors with an innovation mindset will contribute to student success,” he added.
OEN’s Battle of the Schools Award invites schools across the state to nominate one entrepreneur they work with—either a recent grad, current student, or someone affiliated with an accelerator or other entrepreneurial programs.
In a press release, OEN describes the Battle of the Schools award this way: “This award honors a nominee embodying the following distinguishing qualities: enthusiasm, willingness to work hard toward a goal, fearlessness when it comes to taking big risks, and a commitment to changing the world for the better.”
The award was established to honor the memory of Wyatt Starnes, a technology entrepreneur who passed away in 2014.
Turner recently took the stage for a PDXTalks event during PSU’s Portland State of Mind Celebration, where he talked about his path to becoming an inventor and the motivations behind his hydrogen car kit. He also pitched Turner Automotive to investors at the Bend Venture Conference in October.
In concluding his thank you’s on the stage at the OEN dinner, Turner closed with the words: “I thank you and the future thanks you.”