In the back corner stage of the Innovation Expo at the Sustainable Brands conference in Detroit, attendees could hear a rousing cry of “Erie Hack!” coming from emcee Andrew Humphrey and echoed by the audience.
It was the semifinals of the second Erie Hack event, and 18 teams were getting ready to pitch their projects to the judges to win a portion of the $100,000 in funds that the Erie Hack winners can receive.
“At the 30,000-foot view, (the goal of the Erie Hack) is to activate this blue economy, this water innovation ecosystem,” said Bryan Stubbs, executive director of the Cleveland Water Alliance, which created the Erie Hack competition. “That being said, we want to see real solutions get spun out of this into actionable innovation.”
By the end of the day on June 5, nine teams continued on to the finals, which will be June 20 in Cleveland.
Caz West took first place, Blue Lion Labs second and Tacso third at the semifinals. UWin Team won the people’s choice vote. The other five finalists are S4, Photodynamica, CCTronic, Erie-Duction and Cleveland AI.
“We always hoped but didn’t expect,” said Lamalani Siverts, one of the S4 team members. “We’re confident in our project and glad that the judges see that too.”
Erie Hack was started in 2017 by the Cleveland Water Alliance. The event is based on seven challenges that the Cleveland Water Alliance came up with in partnership with the Creativity and Innovation Team at the NASA Glenn Research Center.
The challenges are connecting communities to the value of water, cultivating resilience in water infrastructure systems, driving the creation of meaningful data, enabling a more equitable water future, managing aging water infrastructure systems, reducing and remediating urban pollution and mitigating nutrient loading and its environmental impacts.
Nearly all of the nine teams that made it to the finals tackled nutrient loading and toxic algae blooms in some manner or water infrastructure.
“We were humbled by all of those incredible ideas,” said John O’Brien, one of the Caz West team members. “Everybody here lives or works in the Lake Erie basin, and it’s a great community.”