Category Archives: University of Washington

Foster School ranks #14 of 100 Best U.S. Colleges for Business Majors

University of Washington’s Foster School of Business ranks best in the Northwest and 14th nationally in NerdWallet’s ranking of the 100 Best U.S. Colleges for Business Majors. Graduates from the Foster School’s undergraduate program had an average annual salary of $97,500 ten years after graduation and carried relatively low student debt thanks to reasonable tuition rates.

Ranked by affordability, prestige, salary, and average debt, the Best U.S. Colleges were rated based on data from the Chronicle of Higher Education, Payscale, SAT scores, and the Institute for College Access and Success.

Best U.S. colleges for business majors

Rank School Public
Average aid package Average student debt Median salary after 10 years or more Score
1 University of California, Berkeley Public 1350 $12,874 $15,764 $17,468 $138,300 83.235
2 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Public 1313 $7,693 $12,622 $17,602 $93,000 71.517
3 Brigham Young University Private 1277 $4,710 $6,457 $15,769 $96,700 71.459
4 University of Virginia Public 1362 $12,216 $15,508 $21,815 $106,400 70.596
5 University of California, Irvine Public 1122 $13,122 $16,066 $20,728 $121,000 70.068
6 Georgia Institute of Technology Public 1352 $10,098 $8,510 $25,027 $116,100 69.299
7 City University of New York Bernard M. Baruch College Public 1225 $5,910 $6,607 $5,979 $88,300 68.859
8 University of California, Santa Barbara Public 1212 $13,671 $15,852 $20,452 $102,000 64.584
9 College of William and Mary Public 1358 $13,570 $13,615 $24,400 $100,900 64.408
10 University of California, Los Angeles Public 1289 $12,692 $16,288 $20,229 $92,200 64.401
11 California State University, Sacramento Public 945 $6,620 $8,939 $4,551 $85,700 63.908
12 California State University, Long Beach Public 1012 $6,052 $8,779 $13,386 $87,400 63.223
13 Washington University in St. Louis Private 1474 $43,705 $25,449 $23,082 $129,100 63.215
14 University of Washington Public 1234 $12,383 $13,441 $21,263 $97,500 62.880
15 California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Public 1070 $6,125 $8,932 $20,636 $91,500 62.838
16 University of Pennsylvania Private 1442 $43,738 $32,489 $19,798 $121,700 62.719
17 California State University, Fullerton Public 1021 $6,195 $8,616 $12,962 $86,400 62.661
18 University of California, Davis Public 1192 $13,877 $15,201 $19,970 $98,800 62.509
19 San Jose State University Public 1030 $6,852 $8,622 $18,424 $95,800 62.374
20 University of Texas at Austin Public 1262 $9,790 $8,627 $25,300 $101,300 62.158

Sources: NerdWallet, Payscale, Chronicle of Higher Education, Institute for College Access and Success. For full rankings and methodology, visit

For more information about Foster’s undergraduate program, visit 

Meet the student-led startups in the 2015 Jones + Foster Accelerator

Taking a startup from idea to reality is a daunting process. The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s Jones + Foster Accelerator, now in its fifth year, helps student-led startups navigate that process with six-months of mentoring from Seattle entrepreneurs and investors, a framework for defining measurable milestones, guidance in achieving those milestones, and the opportunity to earn up to $25,000 in follow-on funding.

Twenty-nine companies have completed the Jones + Foster Accelerator program since it began in 2010. Twenty-five of them are still in business today, raising millions in funding, becoming household names, forming partnerships with celebrity foundations, and winning prestigious awards.

The 10 companies accepted into the 2015 Jones + Foster Accelerator cohort run the gamut, from clean technology to healthcare innovation to peer-to-peer commerce. The one thing they all have in common is a great idea, and the drive to turn that idea into a successful venture. Over the next six months, these startups will polish their pitches, raise early-stage funding, manufacture their products, build marketing strategies. Each milestone they hit will bring them a few steps closer to their startup goals. We can’t wait to see what these student entrepreneurs can achieve!

2015 Jones + Foster Accelerator Teams

2015 J+F Accelerator Team Logos





Benchmark Environmental
Benchmark Environmental is developing an affordable, easy to install, and low maintenance stormwater treatment system. The Benchmark ECR will enable more companies and municipalities to effectively treat every pollutant present in stormwater runoff.

Budding Diagnostic
Budding Diagnostic is the road-side “breathalyzer” for THC and other illicit substances. The company has developed a revolutionary and non-invasive way to quantify drug levels, including THC, from a drop of saliva within a few minutes.

Eldergrow provides a therapeutic connection to nature through gardening products and services that improve the quality of life for a growing community of elders living in residential and nursing care.

Hook is a smart home hub that makes inexpensive remote controlled outlets and bulb sockets “smart” to enable home automation on a budget.

The JikoPower personal power station converts waste heat generated during cooking into usable electricity

miPS is the first consumer stem cell generation and cell banking service. miPS allows consumers to store their adult cells to prevent cellular aging, generate stem cell lines for research, and use banked cells for future stem cell therapies.

Ownly is an online marketplace that facilitates peer-to-peer beauty services on college campuses. Ownly offers college women a more affordable and convenient alternative to professional beauty services by connecting them with classmates and student makeup artists right on their college campus, so they can get their nails, eyebrows, hair, and makeup done at a fraction of the salon price and at the location of their choice.

Scholarship Junkies 
“Students helping students achieve scholarship success.” Scholarship Junkies provides students with an insider’s guide to the scholarship process from the perspective of students who’ve been there.

TriboTEX is a clean-tech startup originated from Washington State University. The company’s product is a proprietary, eco-friendly nanoparticle with two functionally different sides that effectively reconditions moving parts during normal operation.

vHAB is a virtual rehabilitation platform that aims to help patients regain fine motor skills of the hand and arm by making therapy fun and precisely tracking recovery.

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Foster School and Evans School Students Gain New Perspectives on Strategic Leadership  

GEstrella pic
Gloris Estrella – MPA ’15

The Board Fellows Program is a unique opportunity for Foster School of Business MBA students and Evans School of Public Policy and Governance MPA students to learn together as they explore the unique leadership role that comes from being a member of a board of directors. MBA and MPA students serve for nine months on a nonprofit board while participating in seminars that teach effective leadership and governance principles. Gloris Estrella – MPA ’15, reflects on her experience as a 2014-15 Board Fellow:

As a second year MPA student at the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, the Board Fellows Program offered by the Consulting and Business Development Center at the Foster School of Business proved to be invaluable to my development and career. The chance to sit on a nonprofit board seemed unreachable to me as a young professional, but the Board Fellows Program brought the opportunity within my grasp. I thoroughly enjoyed learning from and participating with the board I was selected to be part of, and was able to put classroom materials into play in a local organization whose mission I felt strongly about.  It was also a fantastic opportunity to work with Foster School graduate students to make cross-sector connections in order to engage in addressing social issues in the Seattle area. 

One of my favorite memories of the program was the day we had two guest speakers: one from the public and the other from the private sector.  Their personal insight about their experiences on boards allowed me to better understand how to make a stronger impact on the board I was participating in.  It encouraged me to step up and voice my opinions and offer more of my skills on the board.  As a result, I was able to join the strategic plan subcommittee and provide a lasting impact on the future of the organization.  Because of my active and positive participation, the Board Chair and Executive Director asked me to join the board as voting member following my allotted time as a Board Fellow.  That opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without the Consulting and Business Development Center and the Board Fellows Program.

A new challenge for health innovators

Vie Diagnostics, a 10-minute DNA-based point of care test for contagious diseases, won the Grand Prize at the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition.

March 2016 will mark the advent of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s latest endeavor: the new University of Washington Health Innovation Challenge (HIC).

Healthcare has entered a period of unprecedented change. Throughout the world, innovators are developing creative solutions that increase the efficacy, efficiency, and accessibility of healthcare and transform the way we think about health. Many of these innovations are coming out of Washington state and the UW—both recognized leaders in health innovation. In the last year alone we’ve seen cutting-edge developments in genomic-based testing, telehealth, wearable devices, and other products and processes that will improve health and wellness worldwide.

“The healthcare ecosystem in Seattle is driving economic growth and innovations that affect our health and wellness,” says Connie Bourassa-Shaw, director of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the UW Foster School of Business. “The players include the University of Washington, private companies, global nonprofits, healthcare incubators and investors, research institutes, and social entrepreneurs.  With the Health Innovation Challenge, we are building on the strengths of the UW and the Seattle community to provide a platform for students with a passion for health and healthcare to further develop their ideas and gain visibility for their innovations.”

The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship is partnering with various colleges, schools, and departments across campus to promote the challenge to a broad group of students, from multiple disciplines. “The exciting thing about health innovation,” says Bourassa-Shaw, “is that it’s not limited to students and researchers in medicine.” Health innovation takes many forms—data-driven discovery, new billing solutions and business models, new ways to monitor health, improvements in efficient healthcare delivery, etc. Students in the HIC could literally come from any discipline.

2015 UW Business Plan Competition Second Place Prize Winner Empreva has developed a new method of birth control and STI prevention.

The HIC will be structured much like the Buerk Center’s well-regarded Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge. Interdisciplinary student teams will develop new solutions to existing problems—new approaches to helping people live healthier lives, new opportunities for care and treatment, new products or services—and prove that their solutions could be viable in the health/healthcare market. Teams will pitch their ideas and demonstrate their innovations to a room of judges in late March 2016 for a chance to win $10,000 in seed funding for their venture. The Buerk Center has no doubt that UW students will embrace this new challenge—six of the eleven prize winning teams in the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition were health-related.

The HIC will launch with a new 2-credit class, ENTRE 579/490 Health Innovation Practicum, in fall 2015. Taught by Sam Browd (UW Medicine, Children’s Hospital, serial entrepreneur) and Emer Dooley (Foster School of Business), the class will teach the mechanics of taking a promising healthcare solution from inception to commercialization. Topics to be covered include big problem areas in both domestic and global health, the biodesign process, the health innovation pipeline (including intellectual property, company formation, and healthcare markets), and the medical regulatory process.

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2015 Undergraduate Consulting Challenge

Big Time Brewery owner Rick McLaughlin with winning student team from South Seattle Community College – Louise Bayona, Amber Jiang, Gosay Mohammed and Aliya Zhaxylykbayeva.
Gargoyles Statuary owner Gayle Nowicki with winning student team Jeremy Santos, Anthony Li, Emmeline Vu, and Jennifer Louie.
Panache206 owner Elizabeth Morris with colleagues and winning student team Ataur Rahman, John Tran, Alan Cai, and Anthony Shen.

On Friday, May 8, the Consulting and Business Development Center hosted the Undergraduate Consulting Challenge, pairing three local small businesses – Big Time Brewery,  Gargoyles Statuary, and Panache206 with teams of students who were given a week to create a plan that would aid in the growth and development of each client.

Approximately 60 students formed teams of three or four to research and analyze the companies in order to develop recommendations to present at the competition.  For the first time, the Consulting and Business Development Center extended the invitation to compete beyond UW to business students from community colleges throughout the state. South Seattle College and Yakima Valley Community College each sent four students to compete in the challenge – with the South Seattle team winning first place for their recommendations to Big Time Brewery!

Each student team presented dynamic ideas and data to the business owners and panel of  judges from event sponsors Key Bank and Target as well as professionals from  Community Sourced Capital, Crown Moving, PaintBox Labs Media Group and Project Management Institute who volunteered their time and expertise. Following the presentations, all attendees gathered in Deloitte Commons for a celebratory lunch and networking opportunity for students, business owners and professionals. After lunch the winning teams for each business were announced and each winning team member received a $200 gift card prize.

Congratulations to all involved with the 2015 spring Undergraduate Consulting Challenge!

For information about the next Consulting Challenge email:

Thank you to James Dennis Professional Photography

What do business plan competitions accomplish?

I had lunch with a good friend last week—someone who supports tech entrepreneurship and the larger Seattle startup community. He asked if there was research to detail the value of business plan competitions. What, he asked me, do business plan competitions accomplish?

UW Business Plan Competition Investment Round 2015
A sea of student teams, judges, and mentors at the Business Plan Competition Investment Round

There are 350+ entrepreneurship centers in US colleges and universities, and my sense is that less than 70% of them have competitions called business plan competitions, startup competitions, new venture competitions, etc. Some programs require their own students to participate in their competition, a good number of them have national or international scope, and a number of them have themes (social, tech, global, undergraduate, graduate). Most all of them award money, and some of them, like Rice University, offer BIG money.

OlyKraut, UW Business Plan Competition 2014
OlyKraut, UW Business Plan Competition 2014

Competitions, in my opinion, shouldn’t be easy, and students should never get a grade for competing. If you want to mimic the realities of the entrepreneurial world in the safe environment of a university, you have to up the ante. Make the competition as real world as possible, with deadlines and deliverables that require student teams to use all the resources they can muster to succeed.  Yes, we assume that students are smart, talented, driven and motivated. How good are they at combining those personal characteristics with an idea, a vision and turning it all into a compelling business? It’s a test. But not like any they’re used to.

Competitions require that student teams butt up against reality. Anyone can write a business plan, but tell me about your execution strategy. What traction do you have to date? Give me a customer profile. Who’s your mentor, your industry expert? Who on your team is going to leave to take a job after graduation—and who’s starting the company?

UpHill Designs, UW Business Plan Competition 2014
UpHill Designs, UW Business Plan Competition 2014

The UW Business Plan Competition is badly named, and we know it. We started the event in 1998, when every major university was starting a  BPC. Then it was about the plan, but the plan was demoted in 2006 and now the 100+ teams apply with an executive summary. In the 18 years we’ve offered our Business Plan Competition, 4,091 students on 1,278 teams from 16 colleges and universities around Washington State have applied. We’ve given out $1.3 million in prize money/seed funding to 128 winning teams. We guess that 75+ teams that went through the competition are still in business, contributing to the (mostly) Washington economy. The 2003 grand-prize winner, NanoString, went public in 2013.

But here’s the real value of the BPC:  it’s hard. It takes discipline and motivation and sheer determination. It demands that teams overcome doubt and anxiety, team dynamics, and their own misconceptions of how things should work or who deserves what. It requires them to move past the paralysis that will surely come when their initial market vanishes or when financial projections are scoffed at. The pain and frustration would make it easy to quit. And some do. The survivors become entrepreneurs.

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Meet the Author

ConnieBourassaShaw_editsAs director of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business, Connie Bourassa-Shaw works to integrate entrepreneurship into the student experience at the University of Washington. She’s responsible for the strategic direction of the center, ensuring the relevance of its curriculum and practical experiences, working with student entrepreneurs, and developing new initiatives. The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, which received a $5.2 million naming gift in January 2013, produces the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge and the highly visible Business Plan Competition.


Meet the UW Business Plan Competition Sweet 16

BPC Investment Round 2015
A sea of student teams and judges at the 2015 UW Business Plan Competition Investment Round

37 student-led startup teams from colleges and universities across Washington state gathered at the University of Washington HUB yesterday to compete in the 2015 Business Plan Competition Investment Round. For four hours, the teams pitched their entrepreneurial ideas to  250+ judges—many of whom said it was the most impressive group of teams in the history of the BPC— in the hopes of landing a spot in the next round of the competition. By the end of the afternoon the scores had been tallied and the sixteen top-scoring teams were announced. These teams will move on to the “Sweet Sixteen” round of the 2015 BPC—one step closer to winning the $25,000 Grand Prize. Congrats to the Sweet Sixteen!

The UW Business Plan Competition is presented by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business.

University of Washington

Auctora’s automated recruiting tool seamlessly screens, sorts, and schedules candidates so that corporate recruiters can utilize their time more effectively while sourcing job applicants. No dealing with paper resumes; no back-and-forth emails between recruiters and candidates – welcome to recruiting in the 21st century!

University of Washington

Authality’s first product, Klide, is the most secure and convenient smart lock, and the only smart lock that meets the demands of Airbnb hosts. Klide pairs a physical lock with a mobile app that allows hosts to distribute revocable “keys” to guests and control access remotely.

Benchmark Environmental
University of Washington and Washington State University

Benchmark Environmental is changing the way we treat storm water. By combining innovative design with new technologies, our treatment solutions are affordable, easy to install, and low maintenance. Benchmark Environmental’s products enable more companies and municipalities to treat storm water runoff effectively–a win-win for customers and the environment.

University of Washington Tacoma

Bettery provides consumers with the most cost effective, convenient, and sustainable portable power solution on the market. Bettery taps a growing demand for sustainable solutions by offering batteries as a low cost subscription service.

Co Optical
Washington State University

Co Optical specializes in lifestyle management technologies, with a flagship product that revolutionizes diabetes management by continuously and non-invasively monitoring blood glucose. This wearable device, structured as a pair of glasses, improves convenience and enhances the overall user experience allowing seamless integration of lifestyle management strategies into the everyday lives of people with diabetes.

University of Washington

Empreva aims to empower and engage women across the world to take their health into their own hands by providing a safe, convenient, and comfortable method for birth control and STI prevention.Empreva is developing birth control and combination birth control/anti-HIV products to benefit the health of women in high-HIV burden areas of the developing world who lack options for protection. For every purchase of an Empreva birth control product in the U.S., Empreva will donate one combination product to a woman in need in the developing world to help achieve sexual health and empowerment for women everywhere.

Washington State University

Go KEFI is an experience-based travel website that helps you plan vacations based off desired experiences and budget. The team won first place at Spokane Startup Weekend 2014, and has since sparked a movement for a new way to travel.

University of Washington

Hook is a home automation hub that offers smart home capability to the price sensitive consumer. Customers are able to convert existing electronics in the home to smart compatible devices, keeping these products up-to-date for years to come. Consumers will enjoy convenience with control via their mobile devices, savings on energy costs, and improved home safety. With an affordable price and remarkable ease of use, Hook aims to make smart home technology accessible to the masses.

University of Washington

JikoPower makes thermo-electric generators to turn ordinary cook stoves into personal charging stations for off-grid households that have small electronic devices in the developing world. JikoPower POWERS devices, but it EMPOWERS people.

NOVA Technologies
Western Washington University and University of Washington

NOVA Technologies’ Smart Solar Window uses transparent nanotechnology to create clean, local electricity that can turn skyscrapers into giant solar arrays and reduce HVAC systems costs, an innovative link to a carbon neutral future.

Park A Lot
University of Washington

Park A Lot is a platform connecting private businesses who have unused parking spaces with customers looking for parking. Lot owners sign up on a hop-on, hop-off platform and their lots become available to the public, generating them revenue. Customers use Park A Lot’s website or app to purchase parking on a lot of their choice from their home or mobile device.

RainCity Heart Lab
Seattle University

Seventy percent of patients who have suffered a heart attack for the first time were previously classified as low risk for cardiovascular disease based on the current testing methods. RainCity Heart Lab (RCHL) is a specialty diagnostic lab that offers a better diagnostic test called CALLIS. CALLIS (Calibrated Lipoprotein Ion Separation) is a blood test for accurately quantifying intact lipoproteins for improved Cardio Vascular Disease risk assessment.

University of Washington

SmartyPants reinvents toilet training and mitigates adult incontinence issues to prevent millions of diapers from ending up as a biohazard in landfills. It predicts impending bowel events and alerts users to get to a toilet. The company’s innovative, first-of-its-kind, technology creates value for the consumers by saving on diaper purchases and the environment by reducing waste and biohazard from disposable diapers.

University of Washington

vHAB is a virtual rehabilitation platform that helps patients regain fine motor skills to lead autonomous lives again. vHAB enables occupational therapists to customize patient treatment and accurately monitor progress through engaging and dynamic video games. System portability and precision metrics pose a competitive advantage for rehabilitation facilities, allowing delivery of quality treatment to patients – anywhere, anytime. vHAB saves rehabilitation facilities time and money. Most importantly, vHAB empowers patients to reclaim their independence.

Vie Diagnostics
University of Washington

A significant portion of patients attending STD clinics fail to follow up for treatment, even when tests are positive and the risk for transmission and complication is highest. Vie Diagnostics’ disruptive molecular diagnostic technology will reduce the spread and pain of STD infections by allowing patients to be tested and treated in a single clinical visit. Its tests will provide better patient management, lower costs for clinics, and improve overall public health.

University of Washington

Yowgii has the potential to disrupt the bottled water industry and the water filtration industry. The global bottled water industry is worth over $157 billion a year, but is heavily comprised of plastic bottles with significant environmental footprint and potential for contaminants. Yowgii combines environmentally-friendly water delivery with innovative water purification to deliver the best drinking water to consumer and promises pure water for a better you!

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See what others have to say about the BPC on Twitter: #UWBPC2015


Picatti Brothers | reflections on the Business Certificate Program

Doug_PicattiDoug Picatti, Vice President of Business Development and Co-Owner of Picatti Brothers, Inc. based out of Yakima, Washington, reflects on the value of the Business Certificate Program offered in Yakima by the Consulting & Business Development Center.

I am Doug Picatti, the Vice President of Business Development and an owner of Picatti Brothers, Inc., an 86-year-old multi-company electrical and pump contracting family business in Yakima, WA.  During the Spring of 2014, I and six of my team members attended the UW Foster School’s Business Certificate Program.

First, I’d like to thank the staff and excellent educators from the UW Foster School of Business, Domex Superfresh Growers, the Kershaw family, the Educational Service District 105 and most importantly, my fellow classmates whose enthusiasm and participation made this program a success!

Picatti Brothers has 5 core values that guide our culture.  Our first is knowledge.  Our people and team must be knowledgeable to create quality solutions to exceed our customer’s goals.  Continued education is important to our success.  Expanding the capabilities of our people, our leadership team and ultimately our company is of paramount importance to us.

Picatti Brothers will be 90 years old in 2018.  We have set some very aggressive goals for this very special anniversary.  In order to meet these goals, we need to continue to learn and grow our people’s capabilities.  I was excited after learning about this program and felt this was a great opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge of our management team to effectively lead our company to the next level.

This six-week program taught techniques, skills and experiences from some of the brightest minds within the University of Washington.  The case studies were interesting, relevant and helpful.  In short, this program and its people were truly world class!

Ultimately, this class helped us learn to be better leaders.  Leadership is more than just having skills and knowledge.  Leadership coalesces the passions and purpose of people to achieve a common vision.  It is about inspiring ourselves and others to achieve a unified goal.

Mindy Grossman, the CEO of HSN said it well when she said “If you are inspired, if you are excited, and you are part of something, you are probably going to be successful, because you are doing what you love.”  Because of this program, we’ve made some great new leaders who will make our companies and ultimately our community successful!

Developing the ability to develop – UW students get a taste of CLST’s approach to leadership development

students in workshop
Students in CLST workshop discussing their development plans

This post was written by staff members from the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking

What can undergraduates do to develop their leadership while at UW?

That’s what over 150 undergraduates came to a Leadership Conference on a recent Saturday to learn about. Hosted by Delta Sigma Pi (a professional co-ed business fraternity)* in conjunction with the Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking, the one-day conference gave attendees a real-world perspective on what they can do now to develop the leadership skills that will be vital to their professional success. The conference included representatives from companies such as Accenture, PepsiCo/Frito Lay, Boeing, Microsoft and Target.

CLST’s role in the event was to help students build their Developmental Readiness, their willingness and ability to develop when faced with challenging leadership situations. (It’s worth noting that the students certainly demonstrated their willingness to develop by showing up to a leadership conference early on a sunny Saturday morning.)

Research on leadership development has shown that only about 30% of leadership is hard-wired, while the other 70% can be developed, and that the extent to which one develops through experiences differs from person to person. In other words, facing a similar challenge, a person with higher developmental readiness might thrive and grow while another struggles and gives up. Further, this ability to develop can itself be developed. CLST’s goal was to help catalyze this process.

In a workshop format, CLST coaches helped participants craft a plan for working on an aspect of their developmental readiness, including specific actions they could take on a daily basis. Sienna Landry, a member of Delta Sigma Pi who helped organize the event, said that the attendees “have absolutely walked away from this conference with a new sense of how they can impact their leadership styles.”

The event was a huge success, and the fraternity plans to hold it again next year. This collaboration with Delta Sigma Pi is a great example of how CLST is reaching out to UW undergraduates to help develop critical leadership skills during their time at UW.

*Delta Sigma Pi is a professional fraternity organized to foster the study of business in universities; to encourage scholarship, social activity and the association of students for their mutual advancement by research and practice.

Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge awards $37,500 to student innovators

“Alaska Airlines wants to get better and better at being a leader in environmental responsibility, so today we’re here to learn from you,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ senior vice president for communications and external relations, in his welcome address at the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

The “you” he was speaking to was a group of 22 student teams from 7 colleges and universities across the state of Washington, gathered at the Seattle Center to pitch their innovations in clean technology, renewable energy and water resource management.

IMG_4148 (1)Throughout the afternoon these innovative and entrepreneurial students demonstrated their prototypes and fielded questions on everything from technology issues to market viability from a room full of 160+ judges and another 100 guests.

While all in attendance undoubtedly learned something from every team, only five teams went home with a portion of the $37,500 in prize money.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge!


$15,000 Grand Prize & $5,000 Clean Energy Prize

(sponsored by Wells Fargo and the UW Clean Energy Institute)

FireBee (University of Washington)

Student Team members:
Ryan Ahearn, undergraduate, mechanical engineering
Aaron Owen, undergraduate, mechanical engineering
Daniel Parrish, undergraduate, mechanical engineering

FireBee is a portable thermoelectric generator that turns cooking fires into personal power stations,  creating an alternative energy source for people in countries that are otherwise off the grid.

$10,000 Second Place Prize

(sponsored by the Herbert B. Jones Foundation)

Hook (University of Washington)

Student Team Members:
Rahil Jain, graduate, electrical engineering
Robert Moehle, graduate , Foster School of Business

Hook is a home automation hub that allows customers to convert existing electronics  to smart devices, decreasing energy consumption, improving home safety, and reducing the amount of electronics that are routinely discarded in landfills.

$2,500 Honorable Mentions

(sponsored by Starbucks,  UW CoMotion, and Puget Sound Energy)

EcoStream (University of Washington)

Student Team Members:
Michaela Byrne, graduate, Foster School of Business
Tianchi Liu, undergradaute, computer science & engineering
Ryan Osher, graduate, Foster School of Business
Shon Schmidt, graduate, bioengineering
Wenxuan Wu, undergraduate, electrical engineering
Han Ye, undergraduate, electrical engineering

IMG_0899 (1)

EcoStream builds awareness and lifelong habits to conserve our most valuable resource by helping people conserve water and change their usage habits in a fun and inexpensive way.


Ion Informatics (University of Washington)

Student Team Members:
Charles Daitch, graduate, Foster School of Business
Brendan Erickson, undergraduate, chemical engineering
Daniel Gilbert, undergraduate, chemical engineering
Matthew Murbach, graduate, chemical engineering
Uttara Sahaym, graduate, Foster School of Business
Arianna Whitten, undergraduate, chemical engineering


Ion Informatics is developing a proprietary technology that provides critical information to battery operators, optimizing asset utilization and prolonging the useful life of the battery. The end effect is a dramatic increase in value that can be extracted from each battery by enabling viable second use battery systems.


 Bettery (University of Washington Tacoma)

Student Team Members:
Brendan Crawford, undergraduate, computer engineering
Chris Dejarlais, undergraduate, finance & computer science
Vishaal Diwan, undergraduate, computer science

Bettery provides a better model for battery use: a reusable subscription service that gives consumers unlimited access to reusable batteries with a monthly subscription.

The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge is presented by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business, University of Washington.

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