When an energy plant’s gas turbine overheated in Embry-Riddle Worldwide student Reamonn Soto’s neighborhood a few years ago, it sparked the idea for a startup that creates wireless sensors for energy companies to predict system failure and save millions of dollars.
“The power company was able to use a backup turbine, but the engine was down for 14 days and cost $2 million to repair,” Soto recalled.
After years of research and licensing patents, Soto’s startup won first place and $10,000 at the Embry-Riddle Launch Your Venture Competition on April 18. As the winning team, Sensatek Propulsion will also represent Embry-Riddle at the Florida Venture Forum’s Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition in Orlando on May 19. In addition to having the opportunity to present in front of equity investors, the winner will have the opportunity to secure investment funding.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in physics and serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Soto enrolled in Embry-Riddle Worldwide’s Master of Science in Aeronautics while working full-time as an economic development finance professional for the Florida Small Business Development Center Network.
After licensing technology to create his wireless sensor, Soto and his co-founder and wife, Azryana Soto, conducted 240 interviews with energy representatives and industry leaders—many who were Embry-Riddle alumni.
“As an Embry-Riddle student, I was able to connect with a great network of industry leaders who were interested in my product,” Soto said. “They were very open to sharing the challenges they were having with gas turbines.”
A gas turbine is the engine at the heart of a power plant that produces electric current and heats a mixture of air and fuel at high temperatures and converts energy into electricity. Sensatek’s wireless monitoring system, SmartJet, consists of ceramic sensors that wirelessly measure the health of gas turbines to predict failure before it happens and alert operators on what repairs need to be done.
The sensors could help owners of gas turbines save up to millions of dollars in maintenance costs, said Dr. Mark Ricklick, Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus and advisor to Sensatek.
Soto and his team competed in the third annual TREP Expo hosted by the university’s Center for Entrepreneurship, where the team qualified for the final Launch Your Venture competition between three other Embry-Riddle student teams.
“Competing in the expo and Launch Your Venture gave my team the opportunity to fine tune our message and get the feedback we needed to move in the right direction,” Soto said. “To be able to have this recognition and validation is just as rewarding as the prize money.”
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