$100K Awarded in Erie Hack Water Innovation Competition during Cuyahoga50 Anniversary Week

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Sue Valerian




$100K Awarded in Erie Hack Water Innovation Competition

during Cuyahoga50 Anniversary Week

Cleveland Team takes top prize

CLEVELAND (June 20, 2019) – A Cleveland team that proposes a geodesic dome made of polymers to catch trash from storm water run-off is the winner of a $100,000 innovation competition aimed at bettering Lake Erie.

TACSO, which stands for Trap and Contain Storm Water Objects, was named the top finisher in the #Innovate the Lake Erie Hack 2.0 competition hosted by the Cleveland Water Alliance on Thursday at Windows on the River. TACSO won $40,000.

The team is led by Thomas Zung, president at Buckminster Fuller, Sadao & Zung Architects and a senior fellow at Stanford University, and rounded out by Joel Hauerwas, a graduate student Case Western Reserve University and Jason Taft, a senior at Cleveland Institute of Art. They want to market their idea to smaller cities and towns to catch garbage such as plastic and dirty needles that can wind up in Lake Erie because of sewer overflow during storms.

“We’re going onto another competition and eventually we want to develop this product to save Lake Erie,’’ Hauerwas said.

The second and third place teams, which shared in the more than $100,000 in cash and supportive services, are:

Second Place: CCTronic from Toledo ($25,000)

Third Place: Erie-Duction, a team of recent John Carroll University graduates from Greater

                                Cleveland ($10,000)

CCTronic, a technology company that develops products for soil and water conservation, pitched an idea to introduce a system of smart and connected valves and filters to intelligently clean runoff from drainage tiles on farms.

Erie-duction, comprised of Gus Kazek of Spencer, Ohio, near Medina, Brooke Baker of Brecksville and Matthew Wilson of Willoughby, propose a new method that uses ochre pigment with farm drainage tile systems to help absorb phosphorus while letting the water drain through. Ochre is a natural clay earth pigment which is a mixture of ferric oxide and varying amounts of clay and sand

“We are one step closer to creating the first Smart and Connected Lake thanks to the efforts of these Erie Hack winners,’’ said Bryan Stubbs, executive director of the Cleveland Water Alliance. “The next step is to support these teams to get their ideas to market and drive our Blue Economy.’’

A panel of expert judges selected the winners at a day-long conference and competition. Teams pitched solutions to Lake Erie’s most pressing problems, proposing everything from the use of artificial intelligence for quick analysis of harmful algae blooms to deploying geodesic structures to capture trash from storm water systems before it enters the lake.

Erie Hack, in its second year, is an innovative water-solutions competition that attracts the best and brightest from the Great Lakes region. The Cleveland event, which included nationally known speakers, is a part of a week-long remembrance of the 50th Anniversary of the Cuyahoga River Fire.

The other Erie Hack team finalists were:

  • CAZWest, Buffalo

  • S4, Cleveland

  • Cle AI, Cleveland

  • Photodynamica, Toledo

  • UWIN Team, Windsor

  • Blue Lion Labs

In addition to the competition winners, the UWIN team was given the People’s Choice Award as voted on by the general public. This award went to the team that voters thought best addressed the Lake Erie Basin’s most pressing water challenges. More than 2,000 people voted.

The Erie Hack competition is one of the Cleveland Water Alliance’s most high-profile programs and accelerates technology solutions to Lake Erie’s biggest challenges from harmful algal blooms to storm water waste. Partner cities for Erie Hack are Windsor, Ontario, Detroit, Mich., Toledo, Ohio, Erie Pa. and Buffalo, N.Y.

CWA is a non-profit organization that leads a network of corporations, universities, research institutions, public agencies and utilities dedicated to building a “blue economy” around innovation and technology on the lake. It is driving the effort to make Lake Erie the first Smart and Connected Great Lake.

The event shone a spotlight on the economic promise of Lake Erie and water innovation in Cleveland, which was highlighted by several speakers, including Joy Mulinex, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s Director of the Lake Erie Commission, and John Cronin, a Time magazine "Hero for the Planet."

Judges for the competition were:

  • Chris Winslow, OSU Sea Grant

  • Crystal Davis, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

  • Bri Nakamura, WEF

  • Rob Ellison, Xylem, Inc.

  • Toby Thomas, Kinetico

  • Neal Restivo, Oatey Corp.

  • Ray Voelker, Digital C and Progressive

Lead sponsors of Erie Hack were Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, Xylem, Oatey and Digital C.

Erie Hack 2.0, which kicked off in February, brought together researchers, designers, engineers, developers and creatives around the region to build teams, develop innovations and compete for cash prize.

"Resolution of our water challenges requires a clear definition of the core problems, paired with rigorous brainstorming and concept validation. Erie Hack is exactly that. Never before have I seen such a talented group of bright minds gathered in one place to solve an issue,’’ said Blake Oatey, CWA board member and Director of Business Development, Oatey Corp.

The first Erie Hack took place in 2017 at the Cleveland Convention Center and a team from Wayne State University took home the top prize for its nano-sensors for phosphorous, nitrogen and lead, powered by a custom micro-battery. Teams from Akron and Buffalo also took home prizes.

The finals competition helped to highlight the progress that has been made with our freshwater since a well-publicized Cuyahoga River Fire in 1969.

About Cleveland Water Alliance: Established in 2014, CWA is a non-profit organization that seeks to better utilize the economic and job-creating potential of Lake Erie while also urging greater care of this valuable, natural asset. We are among the region’s leaders working to bring together Northeast Ohio’s water providers, business and political leaders, researchers and environmental organizations to establish Cleveland as a nationally recognized center for water innovation. The organization was recently named a winner of a 2019 Great Lakes Leadership Award from the Great Lakes Protection Fund for its work.

Savannah Tracy