Cal Poly’s Innovation Quest Competition Awards $30,000 to Student Startups

Mantis Composits accept their first place checkAn interdisciplinary team of four Cal Poly students earned the $15,000 first-place prize in Cal Poly’s 13th annual Innovation Quest (iQ) Competition for their startup Mantis Composites, a company that is developing carbon fiber 3-D printing technology to provide full service design-to-manufacturing of high performance materials for automotive, aerospace and biomedical applications.

Aerospace engineering students Ryan Dunn and David Zilar, materials engineering student Michael Chapiro, and electrical engineering student Michael Delay have been working on Mantis Composite for a year and half and participated in Cal Poly’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator program last year. Their platform allows customers to create composite parts for machines and devices with stronger, lighter and more intricate geometry than current technologies allow.

More than 150 applicants representing 43 teams from across campus competed for $30,000 in this year’s iQ competition. Twelve teams of finalists were selected to present their ideas to a panel of judges with a broad range of entrepreneurial experience.

“We were very impressed by the caliber of innovative startup ideas that emerged for this competition and the maturity of prototypes and products being developed,” said Thomas Katona, assistant professor of innovation and entrepreneurship in Cal Poly’s Biomedical Engineering Department. “We had a fantastic spectrum of product ideas, including water management technologies, digital marketplace platforms, and fundamental materials development. This competition showcased Cal Poly’s top student startups and the polytechnic spirit.”

Sociology major Luke Fox and his business partner Michael Taylor of Trinity County, Calif., won second place and the $10,000 Rich and Jackie Boberg Innovation Award for their startup, DroneFox, an invention designed to help emergency personnel detect, identify and intercept unauthorized drones.

Business administration majors Lucas Toohey and Matt Twohig, computer science student Annie Liu, and computer engineering students Jacob Copus, Justin Cellona and Nikhil Ahuja took third place and $5,000 for ObserVR, a virtual reality application that allows a user to stream multiple 2-D videos in a 3-D environment, creating an immersive environment for simultaneously viewing multiple eSport or sporting events.

The top three teams are invited to interview and compete for the CIE’s SLO HotHouse Summer Accelerator program, a 13-week intensive business launch program. Accepted teams receive $10,000 to help fund their startup, are paired with experienced mentors, and receive workspace and business guidance throughout the summer.

Cal Poly graduates and business leaders founded iQ as a nonprofit philanthropic corporation to create a mechanism for Cal Poly students to apply their skills and innovative ideas to create companies and jobs and to build a culture of social responsibility. Since its inception, iQ has awarded more than $375,000 and alumni companies of the iQ program have begun to financially support the competition.

“Parsons is pleased to have sponsored Cal Poly’s iQ competition for the third consecutive year, and we congratulate this year’s winners for their ingenuity and success in translating skills they learned in the classroom into innovative products and business ideas,” said Chuck Harrington, Parsons’ chairman and CEO. “As a global engineering, construction, technical and management services firm, we understand the importance of empowering today’s youth through innovation and learning.”

Half of the 32 award winners over the last 10 years are still in business, including Grinds Coffee, InPress Technologies, RepairTech and Higea Inc.

For more information about iQ and the winners, go to:

Cal Poly, Orfalea College of Business Ranked Highly by US News & World Report

DSC_0120Cal Poly has kept its streak alive for 23 years as best public-master’s university in the West, according to the latest edition of the U.S. News and World Report’s America’s Best Colleges guidebook. For the first time, the Orfalea College of Business made the list of top undergraduate business schools.

In the rankings released today, Cal Poly tied for 10th in the magazine’s overall list of the West’s best universities, which includes 116 public and private institutions in 15 states, that provide “a full range of undergraduate and master’s-level programs but few, if any, doctoral programs.”

U.S. News ranks colleges that grant doctoral degrees, such as those in the University of California system, in a separate category.

“We are humbled by the recognition of this prestigious ranking,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “It is always gratifying to see Cal Poly honored for our singular Learn by Doing approach to education.

“This is possible thanks to the dedication of our faculty and staff who help our students succeed not only in the classroom but as graduates out in world. Employers know that our graduates bring an experience grounded in real-world applications and the hands-on know-how that will help them succeed in their careers and that has prepared them to become tomorrow’s industry leaders.”

The university’s engineering program, which issues more than 1,000 bachelor’s degrees annually, was again ranked seventh-best master’s and bachelor’s program in the nation — the same as last year — and the U.S.’s top state-funded institution.

In addition, Cal Poly’s civil engineering and mechanical engineering programs were ranked third in the nation — and the best state-funded programs in the country.

The university picked up two new accolades in the new America’s Best Colleges guidebook, which goes on sale later this month.

The Orfalea College of Business, which boasted nearly a 100 percent hiring rate for accounting graduates in 2015, for the first time made the magazine’s list of best undergraduate business programs.

Cal Poly was also ranked 10th best veteran-friendly university among Western universities — a listing that shows military vets and active-duty service members which top-ranked schools offer benefits that can help them make pursuing a college education more affordable. U.S. News and World Report ranked 721 schools across 10 separate categories.

In April, Cal Poly dedicated its Veterans Success Center, a one-stop shop for veterans and dependents at the university. The new center serves a growing number of students. In the school year ending in June 2013, 264 Cal Poly students received a Cal Vet Fee Waiver. The number increased to 296 in the 2013-14 academic year and to 305 last year.

The U.S. News rankings are available at

Senior Spotlight: Christy Carter

Christy Carter

Christy Carter

Christy Carter is graduating with academic excellence from Cal Poly with an MBA from the Orfalea College of Business and a Master of Science in Engineering Management from the College of Engineering. She earned her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Cal Poly as well. In her time on campus, she has been a part of a Coleman Fellows research program investigating student interest in innovation and entrepreneurship with Marketing area Chair Lynn Metcalf. In the College of Engineering, Carter helped teach classes and mentor students for aircraft senior design. She also served as secretary for the Graduate Students in Business Association, an ambassador for the College of Engineering, and a study session leader for math and physics courses at Cal Poly.

Additionally, Carter teamed with co-manager Michael Haworth on a large-scale project to design, create and build an Engineering Welcome Center and self-guided tours for each of the thirteen engineering majors for Cal Poly’s College of Engineering. Carter helped navigate the approval process with many campus constituents and students. “We had the idea that it would be great to facilitate self-guided tours, so we initiated a project to develop brochures that would allow anyone to get a feel for each department, whether you’re a prospective student, parent, alum, corporate sponsor, current student looking to change majors, or just curious about the college of engineering,” said Carter.

Carter created and seized opportunities to experience several engineering internships, including an internship with Nor-Cal Products Inc. as a research and development engineer, sales engineer, and supply chain engineer. During the summer of 2014 Carter began an intership at Northrop Grumman Corporation as an aerospace systems engineer and, upon completion of her degrees, will begin a full-time position as an aerospace systems architect with the company in Redondo Beach, Calif.

Cal Poly has become a family tradition in the Carter family with Christy’s younger sister Kelly now attending Cal Poly as a sophomore. Together, the two have volunteered in activities that they both enjoy, including FFA and equine therapy for special needs individuals. “I am so grateful to spend this quality time with my sister building our friendship while giving back to the San Luis Obispo County community,” said Carter.

Carter is excited to take her next step in life pursuing professional goals, exploring the world, and continuing to make family and friends a priority. She will spend the summer visiting family and taking a trip to Alaska before beginning her professional career in September. She also looks forward to returning to Cal Poly in the future to recruit Cal Poly students for jobs and be a guest speaker for classes.

“Cal Poly feels like extended family,” said Carter. “I want to ignite that same passion in other Cal Poly students to make the most of their education.”