Daniel Blood, Erica Gonzaga, and Rob Damitz
From left, Daniel Blood, Erica Gonzaga and Rob Damitz celebrate their victory in the UF Big Idea Business Plan Competition.

Engineering team claims $25,000 in UF Big Idea Business Plan Competition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Three engineering students whose company developed a portable water purification device that uses ultraviolet light to sterilize water were awarded $25,000 for winning the UF Big Idea Business Plan Competition on Friday.

Daniel Blood, Rob Damitz and Erica Gonzaga, co-founders of aqUV, outlasted a field of 140 entrants to claim the grand prize. The event, open to all University of Florida students, was sponsored by the Warrington College of Business Administration’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CEI).

The company’s innovation is a water bottle that contains a UV light bulb. When activated, the bulb sanitizes the bottle’s contents in approximately two and one-half to three minutes. Although the product would be popular with hiking and camping enthusiasts, the team hopes its primary use will be to help people in developing nations and victims of natural disasters. According to water.org, approximately 780 million people globally lack access to clean drinking water.

The team’s members have experience and a keen interest in water purification. Damitz, 26, a third-year doctoral student in Chemical Engineering, previously worked for Mainstream Engineering in Rockledge, Fla. One of his main assignments was developing a meal preparation system, which included a water-treatment system, for the U.S. military. Gonzaga, 27, who will graduate this spring with a Master of Environmental Engineering Sciences, had done extensive research on the subject for her undergraduate and graduate degrees. Blood, 26, a doctoral student in Mechanical Aerospace Engineering, has been on numerous medical mission trips to Haiti where he’s witnessed firsthand the lack of access to clean water.

The team plans to use the winnings to further develop its prototype, produce an initial set of units, and then transport them to Haiti to test.

Myolyn, created by mechanical engineering students Alan J. Hamlet and Matthew Bellman, finished in second place and received $10,000. The company is developing a recumbent tricycle for people with neurological disorders. Using Functional Electrical Stimulation, the device can stimulate weak or paralyzed muscles causing them to contract and create a smooth pedaling motion so the user can pedal a bicycle with their own muscles.

Rewardify, developed by business student Alexander Cohen and engineering student Xiang Mao, finished in third place and was awarded $5,000. Rewardify is a tool that helps the average consumer maximize their credit card rewards and use their credit cards smarter. With a dynamic user personalization and a universal exchange rate to compare different types of rewards, Rewardify can help users choose the right credit card anywhere, anytime. This maximizes the rewards that customers receive, and gives them the full benefit of their cards.