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Winning Innovators Apply Big Brains to Pollution, Ice, and Animal Attack Problems

Apr 27, 2023 | Education, News, Science

Maxxyustas | Envato

The UAF College of Business and Security Management awarded more than $45,000 in cash prizes to inventors at the 2023 Arctic Innovation Competition (AIC).

Necessity’s Children 

The competition, now in its 14th year, invites innovators to propose new, feasible, and potentially profitable ideas for solving real-life problems, open to entrants from all over the world.

The top prize of $15,000 in the main division, for competitors ages 18 and up, was awarded to Serena Allen and her team for AiryCherry, a portable outdoor air-purification system. Allen traveled from Los Angeles to pitch her solution.

“Particulate matter pollution is a global problem that Fairbanks knows all too well. AIC allowed us to share our technology with an audience that understands the urgency of this problem,” Allen says. “The judges gave great feedback and asked questions that made us think critically about our technology’s understandability and deployment strategy. It was awesome to meet other Arctic innovators and listen to their pitches.”

In the junior division, for ages 13 to 17, the $1,000 first-place prize was awarded for Grater Than Ice, submitted by Xander Dahle and Jeffrey Goddard. Grater Than Ice is an alternative method of ice removal: a spinning barrel with dozens of small, replaceable, recyclable blades. It can be attached to a truck or passenger vehicle. Dahle also earned an honorable mention for an idea involving autonomous ocean mapping submarines.

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In the cub division, for ages 12 and under, the first-place prize and $500 went to Denali Walrath, a returning competitor, for her app idea, The Animal Alert. The app allows users to send an alert when a wild or potentially dangerous animal is in an area. She says she got the idea while berry picking last year. Her father says Walrath, a fifth grader at Anvil City Science Academy in Nome, will collaborate with UAF students and faculty to code, patent, and release the app.

Walrath also receives an extra $2,000 scholarship from Alaska 529, an educational savings program established by the Education Trust of Alaska. Altogether, Alaska 529 provided more than $16,000 in scholarships and awards to AIC participants. One $2,000 prize went to a randomly selected teacher who integrated AIC in the classroom. The Classroom of the Future award went to Chris Benshoof, an AIC past competitor and Lathrop High School teacher.

Extra $2,000 “kicker” prizes went to a team of college students for a collaborative field data collection solution, to Mamie Brown for innovating accessible legal products, and to Casey Luecker for the Skilak outdoor gear rifle dry bag.

The competition, sponsored by Usibelli Coal Mine, gives the community and competitors an opportunity to build lifelong friendships, business connections, and the confidence to turn their big ideas into reality.

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Architecture & Engineering Special Section + Small Business

February 2024

In the February 2024 issue of Alaska Business, we engineered a special section that inspects the many ways architecture and engineering enrich our lives, from creating beautiful and functional spaces to crafting functional and safe transportation corridors. In addition to the built world in which we live, this issue celebrates small businesses and the many functions they provide, whether they're developing tools in the healthcare industry or opening new dining locations.

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