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AtmoSpark nets Texas Rural Challenge

AtmoSpark Texas Rural Challenge AtmoSpark, the brainchild of Tejus Mane, a master’s student in chemical engineering at Lamar University, came away with the top prize in the 2017 Texas Student Challenge in the business plan competition at the Texas Rural Challenge in Waco on June 29.

“We are an atmospheric water generation company developing technology to bring fresh water to rural and urban communities and hard to reach areas such as offshore platforms, for disaster relief and in maritime,” Mane said.

The Texas Rural Challenge win is the group’s third No. 1 finish in three months. AtmoSpark took the top prize at the Big Idea Challenge at LU and in the Texas State University Business Plan competition.

Selected as one of five finalists among 17 applications, Mane and Matthew Bukovicky, an M.B.A. student in leadership, represented the AtmoSpark team in the challenge.

Their efforts there was supported by the other two members of the AtmoSpark team: Aniket Khade, a Ph.D. student in chemical engineering, and Damilola Runsewe, a master’s student in chemical engineering.

All four are participating in OwlSpark, Rice University’s three-month entrepreneurship accelerator program, where Khade and Runsewe led the development of a mock-up prototype of the device using the maker space in the lab there. The team will have opportunity to pitch their ideas to Houston entrepreneurs during a demo day August 1, and the program continues through August 12.

In the competition, Mane and Bukovicky presented a five-minute talk on the AtmoSpark idea before a panel of judges. Mane then delivered an elevator pitch round that “went pretty perfect and we had a good response from all the judges,” he said. 

The $3,000 prize will be go toward prototype development, Mane said.

The project resonated with the judges, Mane said, because it offers another way to address the growing challenges of providing clean water in rural America.

Originally envisioned as a solution to water shortages in developing countries, the technology holds promise as one means of addressing potable water needs in rural Texas, Mane said.

The team is refining the project at LU’s Center for Innovation, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship.

Mane first had the idea while attending the Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship graduate class taught by David Cocke, Jack M. Gill Endowed Chair of Chemical Engineering and associate director of the CICE. The class changed his professional trajectory, Mane said, from preparation to become a process engineer to a future in entrepreneurship.