The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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ElectroPure Wins First Place $26,000 Prize in Innovation Challenge

Julie Bliss Mullen

Julie Bliss Mullen

ElectroPure, a venture created by Ph.D. candidate Julie Bliss Mullen of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, won the $26,000 first prize in the finals of the University of Massachusetts Innovation Challenge on April 6. Mullen has developed a water treatment device at a competitive price and aimed at homes and small community systems such as schools to combat diverse water quality issues.

In fact, two of the seven finalists in the Innovation Challenge were from the College of Engineering. This year-long series of entrepreneurial competitions climaxed in the Campus Center Amherst Room, where the seven teams competed for $65,000 in funding to support their ventures.

The other College of Engineering finalist was ARBioDesign, created by Rune Percy and Alex Smith of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department. ARBioDesign is developing a device that can quickly, easily, and inexpensively analyze a drop of blood to improve current, outdated dialysis treatment.

Ph.D. candidates Felipe Navarrete, Pablo Visconti, Ana Maria Salicioni, and David Martin won the $20,000 second prize with StarSperm, a product that addresses male fertility issues.

Ag Rowe Intelligence, proposed by Paul O’Connor and Levi Lilly, won $19,000. Ag Rowe Intelligence makes automated data collection and analysis systems for agricultural research, production greenhouses, and golf courses.

The Innovation Challenge is a series of competitions designed to help and reward UMass students and young alumni who want to pursue novel business ideas and develop them into marketable products. The Berthiaume Center, which sponsors the Innovation Challenge, received 25 competitive applications for the recent semi-final held on March 1, out of which the top seven teams of entrepreneurs on campus were selected to compete in the final.

According to the Berthiaume Center, the audience at the Innovation Challenge Final heard pitches “from the greatest variety of ventures we have seen thus far that take their roots in departments all over campus. The finalists include six Ph.D. candidates, one Master’s student, and 10 undergraduate students in Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences, Management, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Computer Science, Veterinary and Animal Sciences, and Chemistry.” (April 2017)