The Mining Environmental Technology and Services (METS) team plans to develop, produce and market optical instruments to detect potentially harmful airborne particulates in mining workplaces, improving safety in the mining industry. In accepting the award, team leader Ben Sumlin explained that they were doing atmospheric research, using weather balloons to quantify distribution of pollution in the atmosphere, when they realized the same technology also could be put to use in the mines to measure diesel exhaust and improve safety.
In a state where the mining industry has deep roots, helping to earn the former territory its statehood in 1864, and at a university known worldwide for its mining education and research, it seemed befitting that the Sontag Entrepreneurship Award went to a team that has produced a prototype to improve safety in the mining industry.
Thirty-five student teams submitted business plans to the competition, and six were named finalists a few weeks ago: BOX Feeds, Entropy Fuel Systems, Envirohaven, GrabiTech, METS and Modphalt. On Wednesday, the students gathered at the university with family, friends, mentors and faculty for the announcement of the winner.
Alumnus Rick Sontag and his wife, Susan, funded the competition last September, with a $1 million gift to the university. Sontag earned his master’s degree in physics at the university in 1966, where he said he had an epiphany, realizing that he was “more interested in the administration and management of science than actually doing the sciences.” He went on to earn his MBA at Harvard and become a very successful entrepreneur.