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Cal Poly Student Startups Receive $5,000 VentureWell Grants

Two Cal Poly student startups are among 50 E-Teams across the nation chosen to receive $5,000 grants from VentureWell, a nonprofit that supports invention, innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education, government and philanthropy.

VentureWell defines an E-Team (entrepreneurial team) as a multidisciplinary group of students, faculty and industry mentors collaborating to bring a product to market.

The winning Cal Poly teams, Higea Technologies and Mantis Composites, have been active participants in Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), which offers a wide range of programs to foster new student ventures.

“Cal Poly was the only school with two teams chosen to participate in the program,” said Tom Katona, assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship and team advisor. “That’s all the more impressive considering that most of the award recipients were from major research universities.”

Higea Tech, which uses magnetic nanotechnology to separate oil and water recovered from oil spills, was launched last spring at CIE’s Innovation Quest competition, where the team won the $10,000 Parsons Innovation Award. Last month, it took the top prize at the fifth annual TechPitch, another program sponsored by CIE.Higea Tech Team

The Higea Tech team includes Tanner Cook (Aspen, Colo.), chief executive officer, a mechanical engineering senior; Wyatt Nelson (Edmonds, Wash.), product development director, an aerospace engineering senior; Morgan Gramling (Los Gatos, Calif.), director of fundraising, a recent environmental management and protection graduate; and Parker Sommerville (Seattle, Wash.),  director of chemical development, a biochemistry junior. A new member of the team, Zoheb Mohammed (Chatsworth, Calif.), an industrial engineering graduate student, serves as the company’s business development director.

Mantis Composites aims to take rapid prototyping in new directions by using 3-D printing technology to construct and print carbon fiber materials.

“Our goal is to create functional components — such as lightweight brackets — not just prototypes,” said Michael Chapiro (Palo Alto, Calif.), the company’s chief technical officer and a materials engineering senior.

Mantis Composites TeamThe Mantis Composites team also includes aerospace students Ryan Dunn (Albuquerque, N.M.) and David Zilar (Kennewick, Wash.), chief executive officer and chief operations officer, respectively; Michael DeLay (Tucson, Ariz.), an electrical engineering major; and Ning Jeng (Fremont, Calif.), a bioresources and agricultural engineering major.

According to VentureWell, the $5,000 will allow each team to attend a three-day workshop on how to better articulate the opportunity for the innovation in the marketplace. Remaining funds may be used to support further development of the project/product.

About the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

CIE opens a world of entrepreneurial opportunity to Cal Poly students and faculty members. The center promotes entrepreneurial activity, scholarship and dialogue across the university and throughout San Luis Obispo County.

About VentureWell

VentureWell was founded in 1995 as the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance and rebranded in 2014 to underscore its impact as an education network that cultivates revolutionary ideas and promising inventions. A not-for-profit organization reaching more than 200 universities, VentureWell is a leader in funding, training, coaching and early investment that brings student innovations to market. Inventions created by VentureWell grantees are reaching millions of people in more than 50 countries and helping to solve some of the greatest 21st century challenges.


Higea Technologies team, from left: Parker Sommerville, Morgan Gramling, Tanner Cook and Wyatt Nelson, co-founders of Higea Technologies. (Not pictured: Zehab Mohammed, director of business operations.)

Mantis Composites team back row, from left: David Zilar, Ryan Dunn and Ning Jeng; front row, from left: Michael DeLay and Michael Chapiro.

Posted Dec 17, 2015

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