CAES Annual Pitch Event: Baby Shark Tank

Xingyue Yang, a visualization researcher at Idaho National Laboratory, won the inaugural CAES Annual Pitch Event (CAPE), also known as Baby Shark Tank. Yang’s idea to use unmanned aerial vehicles to create enhanced visualization capabilities to train firefighting forces beat out nine other finalists in the competition.

CAES launched the CAPE/Baby Shark Tank competition in August to help transfer the innovation and research that thrive at CAES from the laboratory to the commercial sector. Everyone in the CAES community was eligible to participate – students and faculty at the universities and researchers at INL – and CAPE was open to all levels of ideas, from early-stage concepts to investment-ready research. The goal of this year’s event was to teach the participants how to convince others – funding agencies, potential industry partners, or even investors – to take action in support of an idea. The competition began with 33 competitors. The field was cut to 18 in early September, and the finals featured 10 participants competing for cash prizes worth nearly $4,000. Each finalist had five minutes to pitch their idea to a panel of judges: INL’s Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology and Chief Research Officer, Dr. Marianne Walck; ISU Acting Vice President for Research and Economic Development Dr. Donna Lybecker; INL’s Industry Engagement Director and Chief Commercial Officer, Corey McDaniel; Nicolas Miller, Executive Director of the Venture College at Boise State University; and Nick Crabbs, Co-Chair of Boise Startup Week and Founding member of VYNYL.

Yang’s idea is an enhanced visualization capability that enables fire fighters and fire managers to visualize real-time wildfire simulations in a 3D/immersive environment. Drones with thermal sensors and cameras would collect the data and send it to supercomputers to run simulations. In addition to providing more effective and safe training and education for firefighters and managers, this enhanced visualization capability would provide real-time information for fire evacuation.

The first-place prize was $1,500.

The second-place winner, INL Researcher Richard Skifton, won $1,000 for his idea: a sublime temperature sensor (STS) that measures temperature profiles by precisely locating specific temperatures of interest.

Bo Zhang, the third-place finisher, received $750 for his idea for a state-of-the-art electromagnetic shield that would allow for safer charging of electric vehicles.

Skifton also won the People’s Choice award, a $500 prize.

Here are abstracts for the winning pitches:

Xingyue Yang: Visualize Real-time Wildfire Simulation Using UAVs
The proposed idea is to build an enhanced visualization capability that would allow firefighters and fire managers to visualize real-time wildfire simulations in a 3D/immersive environment, helping them to deal with fire related incidents more effectively than conventional methods. Drones with thermal sensors and cameras would collect data and send it to supercomputers to run simulations. A web server would pass simulations to a web-based platform where users would visualize it using their preferred device. This capability brings together fire information, including location, boundary, hotspot, air temperature, wind information, and fire simulations, on top of a real terrain. It would help with predicting fire directions, planning escape routes for firefighters, and identifying fire lines based on local environments, and it would reduce fire related injuries/damages, determine fire location quicker and more safely, and provide real-time traffic information for fire evacuations. The data gathered by drones would be used for future education and training purposes in universities and fire departments.

Richard Skifton: Sublime Temperature Sensor
The Sublime Temperature Sensor (STS) measures temperature profiles by precisely locating specific temperatures of interest. Through the process of sublimation and deposition, a solid material is housed in a long, thin tube and is gasified under vacuum when heated. Once the gas reaches the set temperature of the STS, the atoms will re-solidify as a ring on the inside of the tube. This is what it means to print temperatures. It is a paradigm shift on the way we think of temperature measurements: measuring the location of a desired temperature, rather then the temperature of a known location.

Bo Zhang: Electromagnetic Shield for Wireless Charging of EV
Wireless charging is an emerging charging technology for electric vehicle (EV). Compared to wired charging, wireless charging offers flexibility and no heavy charging cable. High power charging can reduce charging time, however, electromagnetic (EM) field safety surrounding the charging pad becomes a safety concern. This proposal here provides a state of the art EM shielding solution for high power wireless charging, with 2 international patents available.

The other finalists were:

  • Amir Ali, Idaho State University
  • Mostafa Fouda, Idaho State University
  • Rajiv Khadka, Idaho National Laboratory
  • Casey Kovesdi, Idaho National Laboratory
  • Mustafa Mashal, Idaho State University
  • Anna McCarrey, Idaho National Laboratory
  • Bhaskar Mitra, Idaho National Laboratory

Background on CAPE: Baby Shark Tank
The Challenge

CAPE: Baby Shark Tank combines elements of the three pillars of the CAES Strategy – research, education, and innovation – and culminates in a (Baby) Shark Tank competition with nearly $4k in prize money.

Open to students and faculty at the CAES universities and researchers at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory, the competition is designed to help transfer the innovation and research that thrive at CAES from the laboratory to the commercial sector. Participants learn how to effectively pitch their ideas, hone their newfound skills, and potentially earn cash prizes for their efforts. Registration is underway through August 19, and an information session will be held on August 17 at 11:30am MT (details at the end of this page).

CAPE is open to all levels of ideas, from early-stage concepts to investment-ready research, pitched by anyone in the CAES community, from undergraduates to faculty and INL researchers. No idea or project is too small.

The ability to effectively communicate innovative ideas is key to bringing new products and technology to market and the general public. Even the best idea can seem lame if it is poorly explained. A strong pitch, on the other hand, can spell the difference between funding and failure. Many researchers and scientists lack the time and training required to hone the ability to deliver a concise and compelling pitch, however. The CAES Annual Pitch Event, aka Baby Shark Tank, is designed to do just that. CAPE competitors learn how to effectively pitch their research, how to help others understand an idea and build interest in it. The goal is to teach the students, faculty, and researchers who enroll in CAPE how to convince others – funding agencies, potential industry partners, or even investors – to take action in support of an idea.

The Initiative

CAPE: Baby Shark Tank provides participants with access to training to help develop the skills required to pitch innovative ideas more effectively. Participants will receive streamlined access to CO*STAR and RIIS training.

  • CO*STAR, which stands for Customer, Opportunity, Solution, Team, Advantage, Results, is a method for turning ideas into powerful value propositions that was developed in Silicon Valley.
  • RIIS stands for Rapid Idea Improvement Session, and it allows participants to engage in constructive feedback sessions with a diverse group of researchers that result in the development of ideas and, ideally, breakthrough innovations.

Proposed scope and structure

Effectively pitching an idea hinges on two components:

  • Establishing the value proposition of the proposed idea to the target audience
  • Communicating a complex idea to a non-expert

As mentioned, CAPE is open to all levels of ideas, pitched by anyone in the CAES community.

This year, the competition is open to individuals only, no teams, although multiple researchers could pitch the same project if they are all co-principal investigators on that project.

Entries are judged on overall merit of the effectiveness of the pitch/presentation rather than technology-readiness level.

Registration is under way, but CAPE: Baby Shark Tank will officially launch with a virtual information session on August 17 at 11:30am MT and will be held in three stages, each briefly described below:

Stage 1: Registration and CO*STAR Training

  • Register – Starting August 4 through August 19
  • Submit a paragraph by August 21 that describes the research idea or project to be pitched.
  • Attend a 2-hour CO*STAR training on August 24 or 25 (stay tuned for details)

Stage 2: Coaching and Improving the Pitch

  • Create draft slides and pitch to be used in RIIS
  • Participate in RIIS (Schedule TBD: August 31-September 2 timeframe)
  • Submit one-page pitch incorporating RIIS feedback (one-page pitch is evaluated and finalists selected for Stage 3)

Stage 3: Pitch Event and Prizes Awarded

  • Submit slides to be used for virtual pitch (template to be provided)
  • Participate in virtual pitch competition the week of September 21st
  • Awards are announced and distributed
  • 1st place: $1500
  • 2nd place: $1000
  • 3rd place: $750
  • People’s Choice: $500

Outcome

  • CAES research community develops and hones the skills needed to effectively communicate their work in short, dynamic, and engaging presentations while effectively pitching technical ideas or solutions.
  • The competition provides a platform for the research community to practice using these skills.
  • The goal is to attract interest in future entrepreneurship initiatives at CAES among students, faculty, and researchers, and to provide a more public launch to the new innovation pillar.
  • Finalists have access to direct feedback on their work throughout the process, providing the foundation for their evolution and improvement as well as future industry collaborations.
  • Opportunity for participants to highlight awards and training, for their own advancement.

Email caescontest@inl.gov for more information.