With 17 participating schools and $80,000 in prize and prototype funding on the line, InventOR is officially ON!
College and university students hailing from institutions from all corners or Oregon are assembling teams and fine-tuning ideas that solve pressing problems in their communities. Those ideas will eventually turn into prototypes — and, ultimately, into products. The state’s only invention competition, InventOR has grown from just a handful of schools participating in 2017 to a truly statewide event with 17 community colleges, private colleges, and universities participating this year.
InventOR is managed by the Portland State University Center for Entrepreneurship which provides a series of web-based education modules in design thinking, digital prototyping, and commercialization to prepare teams to compete. In May, an initial field of 34 teams will participate in the InventOR semifinal round, where the top 20 teams — one team from each school, plus three wildcard teams — will receive $2,000 each to fine tune their prototype for the InventOR final which will be held June 28 at Portland State.
“The InventOR program has created a vehicle to support student entrepreneurs around the state, driving innovation in both rural and urban communities alike,” said Chris Harder, director of Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency and an InventOR sponsor. “The more we support the innovative spirit early on, the more inventors and entrepreneurs we’ll create to lead Oregon’s next generation of innovative companies.”
After doubling in size in 2018, InventOR has continued to grow, with 11 institutions returning to compete again in 2019 and six more joining the program. Returning institutions with students who will compete in this year’s competition include Clackamas Community College, Eastern Oregon University, George Fox University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland Community College, Portland State University, Rogue Community College, University of Oregon, University of Portland, and Warner Pacific College. First-time InventOR participating schools include Lewis & Clark College, Klamath Community College, Linfield College, Oregon Health and Science University, Southwestern Oregon Community College, and Western Oregon University.
InventOR is made possible with the help of sponsors including The Lemelson Foundation that supports programs in the U.S. and developing countries that: inspire young people to become inventors; ensure students have the skills to realize their ideas; and help invention-based businesses to thrive.
“We believe in the power of invention to improve lives,” said Carol Dahl, executive director at the Lemelson Foundation. “InventOR proves that invention isn’t relegated to urban areas and that the state of Oregon is rich with young inventors who have the creativity and insight to develop solutions to challenges they see in their communities and around the world.”
In addition to The Lemelson Foundation, other InventOR 2019 sponsors so far include Business Oregon, Oregon Community Foundation, JAMA Software, and Stoel Rives.
“PSU is committed to nurturing innovation, entrepreneurship and regional economic development," PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi said. "The InventOR competition is an example of innovation in education that delivers excellent results. PSU is proud to bring this program to students across the state and we are looking forward to hosting the completion finals on June 28.”
Juan Barraza, who runs the InventOR competition for the PSU Center for Entrepreneurship, said interest in the program from schools across the state has continued to increase. With web-based education to share important concepts with all teams and funding to build prototypes, InventOR is able to equip all teams with the tools to bring their ideas into the real world.
"InventOR’s growth is thrilling,” Barraza said. “It’s proof that innovation is evenly distributed across every zip code in Oregon.”