Ideas Power UAF Arctic Innovation Competition
The UAF College of Business and Security Management awarded more than $40,000 in cash prizes to two dozen selections in the 2022 Arctic Innovation Competition (AIC).
Highlighting Homegrown Achievements
The competition, now in its 13th year, invites innovators to propose new, feasible, and potentially profitable ideas for solving real-life problems.
The top prize of $10,000 in the main division, for ages 18 and up, was awarded to Zak Erving and Phil Belleau of Anchorage for their idea, “Prismatext: Read a Book. Learn a Language.” Prismatext is a computer app that blends words and phrases from foreign languages into a variety of published texts, allowing readers to acquire vocabulary in context.
“In addition to adding new features to our mobile app, we’re in the process of building relationships with publishers so we can add thousands of contemporary titles to our bookshelves,” says Erving. “We’re also building tools that we hope will revitalize the education and preservation of indigenous languages of cultural importance.”
In the junior division, for youth ages 13 to 17 years old, the $1,000 first-place prize was awarded for the NO Snow Machine, submitted by Joanna Joo, Phoebe Xu, Hannah Chang, and Grace Li of Fairbanks. Designed to safely and efficiently remove snow from roofs, NO Snow “vacuums” the snow from the roof through a folding tube onto the back of a truck, without the hassle of shoveling it away.
In the cub division for youth ages 12 and under, the first-place prize and $500 went to the Gadget Girls of North Pole for their idea, Cluck Box. Lauren Burgess, Shannan Burgess, Charlie Clark, Leah Lewellyn, and Alex Lorenzana—an all-girl team—improved the design of current chick-shipping boxes to help keep chicks safe, warm, and fed during longer periods of time.
“Being from Alaska, I wanted to be part of a community that fosters creativity and innovation in my home state,” says Prismatext’s Erving. “I think it’s important to highlight homegrown achievements, and AIC is a wonderful resource that highlights new ideas in the Last Frontier.”
Other cash prizes went to main division projects involving vertical axis wind turbines, hydroponic agriculture, an ultrasonic clothes washer, and a device to link smart thermostats to direct vent heaters, like Toyo stoves, which does not exist in the current market.
Junior innovators from Fairbanks, Fort Wainwright, and North Pole won cash for, respectively, a tabletop device charger, a small robot that sweeps metallic debris from workshop floors, and an anti-fogging face mask.
The 12-and-under cohort also earned cash for concepts to solve the problem of dogs refusing to “do their business” in cold, snowy weather, and 3D printed buildings at the core of new neighborhoods.
That latter entry came from the team of Brooks and Bridger Pinney of Juneau, whose multiple submissions also earned honorable mentions: heated snow shovels, an app that warns of toxic “red tides,” and a prototype water bottle with a reverse osmosis filter.
Among adult competitors, honorable mentions went to the Phire Charger, which charges mobile devices using batteries carried by wildland firefighters; a magnetic plug for car block heaters, to avoid the problem of yanking the cord; an organizer for intravenous lines; an airborne disease dosimeter, which estimates exposure to other people’s exhalations; and an emulsion of ammonia and crude oil, which might someday allow the transport of carbonless energy in the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. Those projects each won $100.
Although most of the winners are from Alaska, projects from Pennsylvania and Washington also earned recognition.