Engineering students win Breakthrough Innovation Challenge

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Krystal Lee, (808) 956-5092
Program Manager, Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE)
Posted: Nov 9, 2012

Chameleon Skin team members
Chameleon Skin team members
A team of University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Engineering students took top honors in the UH Mānoa Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) Breakthrough Innovation Challenge (BIC) for their chameleon skin-inspired thermal insulation design. Team members Cody Hayashi, John Hirano, Richard Ordonez and Trent Robertson received $1,000 for Chameleon Skin, an affordable window system that mimics the iridophore cell structure of a chameleon to control the temperature of a building by reflecting and redirecting heat.
"The Breakthrough Innovation Challenge was an excellent experience in taking the spirit of entrepreneurship and applying it to our knowledge of engineering,” says John Hirano, Chameleon Skin team leader. “It forced us to look beyond the intrigue of the technology and begin to understand how to turn it into a profitable product for market.”
Bioengineering student Aaron King took second place and received $500 for his electric eel-inspired energy converter. King’s idea, called The Powerplant, is an innovative renewable energy that uses modified plants as self-replicating, self-repairing solar panels. Shidler College of Business MBA student Brendan Mulligan took third place and received $250 for his human nervous system-inspired information processing idea.
The Breakthrough Innovation Challenge is UH's first challenge of its kind that provides students and faculty with the opportunity to:
  • Bring attention and recognition to their innovations;
  • Network with community leaders and others within the University who may be helpful in the further development of the innovation; and
  • Win cash prizes.
This year's BIC was focused on Biomimicry. PACE asked students and faculty to submit fresh ideas that mimic nature to solve human problems. In the qualifying round, challengers submitted 2-minute videos via YouTube describing how their innovation emulates nature and its market opportunity. The video submissions were viewed and ranked by a preliminary round of judges. The finalists were announced and paired with a mentor to prepare them for the last phase, where they presented their ideas and its commercial potential to a final judging panel on November 1.
The Challenge is organized by PACE, in partnership with the UH Mānoa's College of Engineering, the College of Natural Sciences and the William S. Richardson School of Law. For more information, visit

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