CAES pitch contest

Xingyue Yang, the INL researcher who submitted the first-place pitch during the inaugural CAES pitch contest this year.

A proposal to to use unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor and help simulate wildfires won the Center for Advanced Energy Studies’ first annual pitch contest.

The CAES ‘Baby Shark Tank’ contest, named after the reality show, ran from the beginning of August until the final event Sept. 24. More than 30 researchers from Idaho National Laboratory or colleges who take part in the center’s consortium of partner schools, submitted pitches for ideas related to their field of study.

“It was important for (Director Noël Bakhtian) to get this going, to take the research and science that thrives at CAES and translate that to the public sector,” CAES spokesman Matthew Evans said.

The researchers who entered the contest then attended training classes to learn how to best make a compelling pitch and gather support for a research proposal. The top 10 ideas were reviewed last week by a panel of judges from Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho State University and a Boise-based startup company as well as receiving a public vote.

Xingyue Yang, a visualization researcher from INL who frequently works in the center’s immersive visual environment CAVE, won the inaugural contest. Yang’s pitch involved using drones and other unmanned vehicles to map wildfires in real time by flying over them, then using the data gathered to create 3D simulations to help with firefighter training and fire research.

Yang received a $1,500 for her winning pitch. Another lab researcher, Richard Skifton, came in second place and won the People’s Choice prize for his idea for a temperature sensor that finds locations matching a pre-programmed temperature of interest.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.