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UH Breakthrough Innovation Challenge winners
Lee Ann Young, Lauren Tamamoto and Asuka Suzuki (Okaraust, Audience Choice); Bradley Beeksma and Nic Ulm (Dive Buddy, 2nd place); and Austin Yoshino (G-Trainer, 1st place).

The Shidler College of Business Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE) conducted the final round and announced winners of the 2018 University of Hawaiʻi Breakthrough Innovation Challenge in November.

Inspired by his brother who lives with cerebral palsy, mechanical engineering student Austin Yoshino designed a customizable gait trainer that incorporates gyroscopic technology in the wheels. This improved design will assist users to walk for longer periods of time, with the possibility of walking independently in the future. Yoshino and his idea called “G-Trainer” captured the top prize of $2,000.

“This event showcases and celebrates the innovative ideas of our students at UH,” said Peter Rowan, executive director of PACE. “All of the finalists this year study disciplines other than business, so for them, it’s their first taste of business and entrepreneurial concepts. Our hope is that they are inspired by the experience, and decide to further develop their idea by competing in the more rigorous Spring business plan competition.”

Prior to the final event, participating UH students submitted a two-minute video detailing their breakthrough idea and its market potential, and a judging panel selected five finalists. PACE then matched the finalists with coaches from the local business community to help the teams further identify commercial opportunities for the idea and develop a five-minute presentation.


  • Dive Buddy—a self-driving boat drone that flags and follows scuba divers (Bradley Beeksma and Nic Ulm)
  • G-Trainer—a device for people who need assistance with walking (Austin Yoshino)
  • Heaterator—a portable lunch box system that keeps food cold or hot (Austin Quach, Reginald Tolentino and Wyman Tong)
  • Okaraust—a gluten-free pizza dough using okara, a tofu byproduct (Lee Ann Young, Lauren Tamamoto and Asuka Suzuki)
  • Vert—a system that enables the growth of plants on an inclined vertical surface (Ame Arakaki)

Dive Buddy took home the 2nd prize of $1,000 and Okaraust captured the $1,000 Audience Choice award.

The finalists presented their ideas to a judging panel comprised of Dana Cotter, director of portfolio for Elemental Excelerator; Julia Okinaka, president of Accuity Consulting Services; Tarik Sultan, managing partner of Sultan Ventures; and Susan Yamada, director of UH Ventures for the UH system.

This year’s challenge was sponsored by one of the state’s largest CPA firms, Accuity LLP.

Read more about the UH Breakthrough Innovation Challenge.

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