Success Stories

Teacher Turned Entrepreneur

Solar Prize Round 4 Winner

American-Made Success Story

Amy Atchley's background is in teaching. But when COVID started, she and her husband decided to do their own thing. She finished off the school year and jumped in full time—or time and a half, because that's what you do as a startup entrepreneur—into their company, the r&d lab.

The r&d lab was one of two Round 4 winners of the American-Made Solar Prize, winning $650K in cash and $150K in technical assistance vouchers. The prize offers everyone—from seasoned professionals to budding entrepreneurs—the opportunity to earn funding and support for their ideas. The r&d lab's winning concept was a metal residential roofing product designed to make solar roofs longer lasting, more aesthetically pleasing, and faster to install.

From Designer to Solar Startup Owner

Solar Prize Round 2 Winner

American-Made Success Story

Our prizes encourage involvement from everyone with a vision for doing things a little bit differently. Adam Winsor was a designer who was freelancing drawings for patent applications. He came up with an idea—that solar panels could serve as a canvas of sorts, and that by etching designs inspired by mosaic tiles on the panels, he could make them into something aesthetically pleasing for parks, gardens, homes, and buildings.

Winning the Solar Prize transformed Adam into the owner of his own startup, Asoleyo Solar, and the American-Made Network connected him with the resources he needed to be successful.

Modern Technology Meets Millennia of Evolution

Fish Protection Prize, Grand Prize Winner

American-Made Success Story

Ben Mater and his team had to look no further than the evolution of aquatic species to find inspiration for their design. As a team of fish enthusiasts, Mater and his colleagues redesigned the shape of wedge-wire screens used in hydropower intake systems to mimic the gills of filter feeding fish, like manta rays.

As first-place winners of the Fish Protection Prize, his team took home $200,000 in cash and $100,000 in voucher support from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This gave Mater’s team the chance to build a prototype of their concept and work toward scaling it up for commercialization. This technology can not only benefit fish, but also industry waterway users who are aiming to create a safer, more sustainable way to generate power at hydro facilities.

Less is More. A Fish Protection Prize Success Story

Fish Protection Prize Winner

American-Made Success Story

Sometimes the simplest designs are the most innovative and effective technologies. Sterling Watson is a senior mechanical engineer at Natel Energy who realized that fish protection doesn't have to be expensive or complex. Instead, it can be as simple as guiding fish to the safest pathway through a hydropower facility.

Earning third-place in the Fish Protection Prize, Watson's team took home $75,000 in cash and $100,000 in voucher support from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. This gave Watson's team access to the brainpower and physical testing resources available at a national lab, as well as the financial resources needed to refine their design and pursue field implementation and commercialization.

Inspired to Give: Water prizes receive generous sponsorship

American-Made Success Story

The vital work being done by prize teams is inspiring even private donors to support their efforts. In early 2022 the Wood Next Fund provided a $300,000 grant to semifinalist teams from the first round of the Solar Desalination Prize and finalists from the Waves to Water Prize, with the goal of helping them advance their renewable energy-based solutions to creating clean drinking water.

"Although approximately 70% of the world is covered in water, only a miniscule amount is actually drinkable due to its its salt content. A solution to this problem would revolutionize water supplies around the globe," said Wood, founder of Wood Next Fund, regarding his gift.

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