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UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

Jacobs School Freshman Wins TriNet Business Challenge

Uzair Mohammed, a freshman at the Jacobs School of Engineering, led the winning team at the Second Annual Triton Innovation Network (TriNet) Challenge. Photo courtesy: UC San Diego Rady School of Management.

San Diego, CA, January 24, 2013 -- A student team led by Uzair Mohammed, a freshman at the University of California, San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, took the top prize at this year’s TriNet Challenge, a business competition aimed at fostering creativity and supporting new ideas in innovation and technology.  Mohammed’s team, which included MBA student Loren Change from the Rady School, received $6,000 to further fund their project utilizing a highly cost-effective biofiltration technology for purification of drinking water, river cleaning, urban development and water infrastructure.

The Triton Innovation Network (TriNet) Challenge is organized by the UC San Diego Rady School of Management in partnership with the Jacobs School’s von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The second annual TriNet Challenge spotlighted commercially promising, environmentally focused technologies generated by UC San Diego’s finest minds.
 

"I'm ecstatic (about winning) and so proud of myself and my research partner,” Uzair Mohammad said. “As a first-year student, I was a bit of an underdog. I'm very happy to win and humbled at the same time. It is great that the Jacobs School, Rady and the Scripps Institution put on this competition. It was a wonderful opportunity for researchers to take and present what we've done and get exposure. We will use the cash prize for patenting our idea and research and development, all the things needed to further develop the product and get it to market."
 

The contest was open to students, staff and faculty for a chance to win up to $6,000 in initial funding. The TriNet Challenge finalist competition was held Jan. 17 at the Rady School. At the event, four finalists presented their best business pitches and the winners were selected by a team of experts. Uzair's team received an additional $500 as the audience's top pick for funding.

The goal of the TriNet Challenge, sponsored by the Scripps Foundation, is to promote innovation and commercialization and provide entrepreneurially-minded scientists and engineers with the opportunity to develop and advance their technology's commercialization plan while providing an avenue for potential funding. The challenge provides networking opportunities, bringing together scientists and engineers with entrepreneurs and personalized mentoring by experienced businesspersons.

Rosibel Ochoa, the executive director of the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center at the Jacobs School, said Uzair's accomplishment underscores the need for these types of programs and resources for students. "The von Liebig Center exists to help inspired faculty, researchers and students like Uzair work through the process of turning ideas into products or companies that address an unmet market need," said Ochoa. "Uzair is a credit to the entrepreneurial spirit of the Jacobs School's students and a great example of why we created the Moxie Center for Undergraduate Entrepreneurship here just last year."

Dimitri Deheyn, a scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and his team received second place in the TriNet Challenge, and received a $3,000 cash prize. It will fund a project known as Sea-Eye, an underwater hyperspectral imaging technology for exploration and health assessment of the oceans that will facilitate and improve oil exploration. Yehuda Bock, a scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and his team were awarded third place in the TriNet Challenge. Bock and his team received a $1,500 cash prize to fund their project that uses GPS and seismic technology for real-time structural monitoring and disaster mitigation in structures susceptible to earthquakes.

The panel of judges included Mary Cozza, an advisor at Russell Bagley Consultancy and former VP of Operations at Qualcomm Internet Services; Greg Horowitt, a venture capitalist at T2 Ventures, serial entrepreneur, author and global innovation policy adviser; Tim Huckaby, chairman and founder of InterKnowlogy and Actus Interactive Software; Kim Davis King, a venture capitalist and board member, startup advisor, EvoNexus selection committee member, adjunct professor at SDSU and lecturer at the Rady School; John Plavin Jr. (“JP”), CEO & chairman of the Board of EarthRisk Technologies (a UC San Diego spinoff from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography) founder of venture capital group SEAR Technologies and Navrina Singh, Qualcomm Innovation Lead at Qualcomm Labs and President of Qwise at Qualcomm. Bill Scripps of the Scripps Foundation was in attendance and presented the awards to the winners together with Dean Robert Sullivan of the Rady School.

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