“One of the things I love about KCC is having students present tangible prototypes and show how they will impact the community – that’s a big difference. Something that shows tangible results and that could be brought to market quickly and have an immediate impact on the community – Juan Barraza, InventOR Director

KLAMATH FALLS — In a surprising and rare judging, the two student-led teams competing for cash prizes in this year’s Klamath Community College Badger Venture competition have been selected to qualify for the InventOR college competition at state level.

An annual entrepreneurship and innovation competition open to KCC students and recent graduates, Badger Venture is a collaborative effort to develop prototype inventions and business concepts. It is presented in partnership with Klamath IDEA, Business Oregon, and the Klamath Community College Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

On Wednesday, April 20 on the KCC campus, Badger Venture teams presented to a public audience and a four-judge panel of local business leaders and entrepreneurs. This year’s judges included Todd Andres of Pacific Power and Klamath Falls City Council, Tricia Clemans of Vertue Lab, Ellsworth Lang of Kla-Mo-Ya Sleep Inn and Suites, and John Novak of Novak’s Auto Parts.

Prizes included “Best Business Development Concept” ($2,000), “Best Prototype Concept” ($2,000), “Entrepreneur in Action” ($500), “Best InventOR Prototype Concept” ($500 ) and a “People’s Choice” award ($250).

After a welcome by KCC President, Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, and Kat Rutledge, Director of the SBDC, each team had the opportunity to present their concept and answer questions from the panel. Afterwards, the judges deliberated while members of the public provided anonymous votes for the “People’s Choice Award”.

Tayas Yawks’ team of Paul Monteith and Anthony Rasdal received the ‘Best Business Development Concept’ and ‘Entrepreneur in Action’ awards, totaling $2,500. The Diesel Weasels team of Charisse Wells and Austin Nunn received “Best Prototype Concept”, “Best InventOR Prototype Concept” and “People’s Choice Award”, totaling $2,750.

Based on the innovative business presentations and the potential societal impact of their respective concepts, the judges announced that both teams would move on to InventOR.

“These teams were perfect in what we were looking for with the invention, and when I heard the social impact of the other team (Tayas Yawks) working in the community providing a second chance – both are worth moving forward,” said Juan Barraza, director of InventOR. “One of the things I love about KCC is having students present tangible prototypes and show how they will impact the community – that’s a big difference. Something that shows tangible results and that could be brought to market quickly and have an immediate impact on the community, many other concepts require a lot of research and development, we don’t know if they will make it to market, but these two are so close.

Each Badger Venture team is paired with an instructor and mentor and spends much of the school year developing their concept while developing a business model for presentation to judges serving as potential investors. The goal is to encourage competitors to identify problems that could be solved by a concept, prototype or service developed in southern Oregon, with the potential for economic growth.

Wells and Nunn from Team Diesel Weasels are both students of KCC Diesel Technology. Wells, the only student in the program, has invented a new tool that allows wrenches to be paired together, allowing torque and leverage in tight, inaccessible spaces. The Diesel Weasels team showed off their tool concept with a prototype in hand, while detailing plans to patent and sell the tool design to a branded manufacturer.

The Tayas Yawks team includes Monteith, a teaching assistant in the college’s welding program, and Rasdal, a KCC welding student. Monteith currently operates Tayas Yawks (translated as “drug bag” in the Klamath language) as a non-profit organization, providing peer support to those recently incarcerated or recovering from drug addiction.

The team pitched their concept as an extension of Tayas Yawks’ operations to include a fabrication shop that would provide quality full-time jobs and training for people in their program, building trailers as a means of providing a second chance in life.

InventOR welcomes around forty college teams each year to present their business and innovation concepts. Each team that advances to the semi-finals receives $2,500 to further develop their idea, while competing for $30,000 in prize money in the final Grants Pass competition on June 23-24.

Team Diesel Weasels and Tayas Yawks will compete alongside two Oregon Tech teams that were selected in the Catalyze Klamath competition to also transition to InventOR: National Early Response Firefighting System (NERFS) and Klamath Angel Mobile Health. These teams are made up of Oregon Tech students Graeme Wiltrout, Eddie Medina, Jemisha Vargas, Marcus Delamarter, Fletcher Stults, Toby Ruston, Chrys Chan and Le Quynh Dao Nguyen.

Badger Venture organizers noted that the event had arguably its biggest public turnout yet, which Barraza also noticed.

“The student community support has been impressive,” added Barraza. “Klamath Falls has shown support for its students over the years. The effect of this support will reverberate for years to come with an economic impact in the region from all KCC alumni.

KCC Badger Venture participants Anthony Rasdal, lr, Paul Monteith, Austin Nunn and Charisse Wells proudly display the checks collected
during the annual innovation competition last week. Both teams will qualify for the statewide InventOR competition in June. (Photo: Kurt Liedtke)

The Diesel Weasels team, made up of KCC students Charisse Wells (left) and Austin Nunn, show off their prototype keyed coupling invention
to the judges at the annual Badger Venture competition last week. (Photo: Kurt Liedtke)