OSMO is the grand prize winner for the 2016 New Venture Competition. Photo courtesy of OSMO

A portable water sampling device won the grand prize Thursday in UC Santa Barbara’s 17th Annual New Venture Competition.

Beginning in fall, judges from the Technology and Management Program (TMP) narrowed down ideas from a pool of 300 students. The team that created OSMO, a small water quality tester, emerged victorious in the competition finals and will be awarded $12,500 in prize money.

OSMO enables water quality monitoring in both freshwater and oceanic conditions by allowing for continuous sampling of the nutrient environments. With daily, monthly or yearly use, OSMO allows users to better understand the nutrient dynamics in these ecosystems.

Kyle Neumann, the project creator and graduate student in marine sciences said this experience has been amazing.  “I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to explore this idea in this direction any other way.”

Neumann was surprised by the results, saying “I don’t think we fully expected to win.”

OSMO plans to use their prize money to invest in patent protection and conduct rigorous field testing to make sure their invention can withstand harsh oceanic conditions.

In a surprising twist, the crowd favorite, VIBE, came in second place overall but won the most money. In addition to the $7,500 second place prize money, VIBE won $2,500 for the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) People’s Choice Award, an audience-voted award and $5,000 for the Citrix Impact Award.

Janek Metzner, an industrial engineer in TMP said they were happily surprised they made second place. “We’re obviously really happy about it, because we didn’t expect anything like this,” Metzner said.

Photo Courtesy of tmp.usb.edu

Courtesy of tmp.usb.edu

“We’ve come way farther than we ever expected to, and I think we all feel really good about it,” added Metzner’s colleague, Harald Schäfer, a graduate student at UCSB.

Following a Steve Harvey-esque mix-up in which Dave Adornetto, the Entrepreneurship Program Director, incorrectly named InGrain the third place winner, EV Match was awarded the $2,500 third place prize.

As the only all-female team, EV Match team member Kelsey Johnson, a graduate student in the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, said they felt good knowing they could successfully compete as all females.

“This is obviously a male-dominated space, so it’s cool to see that we have a voice and the technical and industry knowledge to show up and compete,” Johnson said.

Commenting on the mix-up, Johnson said she understands that mistakes happen. “It’s easy to mix us up because we’re both from Bren,” Johnson said. “Both of us have our strengths kind of in similar areas. It was understandable.”

InGrain team member Talia Ibarguen, a graduate student in the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, agreed with Johnson.

“Oh it was funny,” Ibarguen said. “Honestly, we’re a pretty easygoing, lighthearted group. We understand that shit happens. It’s fine. We weren’t offended or hurt by anything.”

Bob York, the chair of TMP, said the students in the competition worked exceptionally hard this year.
“We’re very proud of the teams. It’s a great cross-section of the campus: undergrads, grads, social science,” York said. “We’ve got engineering, gadgets and save-the-world social responsibility entrepreneurship ideas. A lot of good things tonight.”