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SafeStart takes top prize at Invent Oregon, the state’s only prototyping collegiate challenge

The competition adapted to the COVID pandemic and a rash of wildfires to award $35,000 in prizes and showcase 18 of Oregon’s most promising student inventors

The Invent Oregon Collegiate Challenge concluded its year-long invention challenge on September 18, awarding its top honor to SafeStart, founded by Lewis & Clark College students Matthew Brown and Ramez Attia.

Safe Start team from Ramez Attia and Matthew Brown from Lewis and Clark College

The two seniors took home $10,000 in prizes for a breathalyzer keychain attachment that helps young drivers make better decisions before they get behind the wheel. The device approaches the problem of drunk driving as a social service, not a punitive measure, to prevent repeat offenses.

“First and foremost, it serves as your guardian angel,” Attia said. “You're above the limit. Here are your options.”

SafeStart also won the People’s Choice $2,000 Award.

One of 18 teams to compete in Invent Oregon, the competition awarded a total of $35,000 in prizes to more than four teams. First runner-up DOSE of the University of Portland combats opioid addiction with a device that dispenses prescription medication only when it is needed. Better Brain and Body, a protein bar infused with an Ayurvedic supplement called shilajit founded by Warner Pacific University students Brandon Medrano and Marcus Romero, took 3rd place. And MAFIX, a carbon-negative construction material invented by Portland State University graduate Jacob Brauer, placed 4th.

A full list of the teams competing can be found online on the Invent Oregon blog. Awards and winners were announced in a live-streamed event Friday, September 18th.

Students competing at this year’s Invent Oregon challenge successfully adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the finals to be delayed more than two months, by shifting to internet collaboration and at-home prototyping, like those developed with 3D printers.

In addition to the disruption caused by the pandemic, several student teams were also affected by fierce wildfires that ravaged many parts of the state, Although forced to evacuate their homes the week before the finals, teams from the University of Oregon and Rogue Community College presented their inventions during the final event “Every single student team participating in this year’s competition has demonstrated that they have what it takes to become inventors and entrepreneurs,” said Juan Barraza, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at Portland State University.

“They delivered inventions that will alleviate many of the problems that we are facing now and in the future. They prototyped their inventions under a great deal of pressure and very little resources during this pandemic. We will be hearing from them in the years to come.”

Organized by the PSU Center for Entrepreneurship, Invent Oregon is an exciting call to action for college and university students with ideas for inventions to address today’s most pressing problems.

Through the Invent Oregon program, students are empowered through mentorship and education to see themselves as innovators. They receive up to $2,500 in development grants to take their invention from an idea to a working prototype while learning about the process of commercialization.

Rogue Community College hosted this year’s competition, now in its fourth year. Invent Oregon was made possible by presenting sponsors the Lemelson Foundation, Business Oregon, and The Oregon Community Foundation.

“Invention-based businesses are important to the growth and resilience of Oregon’s economy,”

said Carol Dahl, executive director at The Lemelson Foundation, a lead sponsor of InventOR. “InventOR helps budding inventor-entrepreneurs start to turn their ideas into products and businesses that will improve lives and bolster the local economy which will be critical as we collectively rebuild from the pandemic and recent wildfires.”

“InventOR enables students to think big and provides the tools to help students become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs,”

said Kate Sinner, innovation and entrepreneurship manager for Business Oregon, the economic development department for Oregon. “Business Oregon is proud to be a sustaining partner for this program that is now in its third year and we look forward to continuing to support student entrepreneurs both as competitors at InventOR but also as they continue to grow their businesses and participate in Oregon’s economy.”

“Rogue Community College is proud to host InventOR 2020,” said college President Cathy Kemper-Pelle.

“This event changes students' lives by empowering learning, unleashing talent, and developing a culture of creativity that is contagious within our communities.”

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