This is a guest post by Devin Sandon, New Venture Specialist at NextCorps.

The first NextCorps Hardware Challenge brought together a diverse group of passionate, articulate entrepreneurs addressing a wide range of challenges, in the hopes of honing their pitches, getting community feedback, and maybe, just maybe, paving their way to pitch in Pittsburgh with AphaLab Gear. 

Some of our entrepreneurs had pitched before, while others were relative veterans, having pitched multiple startups in their time. Some, like Juan Estrella of Martone, were pitching for the very first time. But all of the entrepreneurs did an excellent job and received a warm welcome and constructive feedback from our panel of judges.

In the clean energy category, Phase Innovations took first place with their novel Pure Atmos product. This window unit allows fresh, outdoor air into a dwelling while mediating the temperature of the departing stale air, along with the incoming fresh air to preserve energy efficiency. Second place went to WoW Energy Systems, which is working on a platform for easy-to-deploy offshore renewable energy production.

In the open category, Combplex impressed with its machine vision, complex laser-based system to detect mites infecting bee colonies. Using a short laser pulse, the system kills the mites, creating a sound akin to popcorn popping, in the words of gleeful founder, Hailey Scofield. Inclusivity Inc. founder, Joe Kabes, took second, speaking passionately about his experiences trying to help students with special needs meaningfully engage in diverse physical education curriculum. His solution, The Overcomer, allows them to enjoy a wide range of sports. Finally, rounding out the category, Juan Estrella took third place with the Martone, a device that makes it easier to learn and play musical instruments. He describes it as a platform for music and music innovation, rather than a mere instrument. It may have been Juan’s first time pitching, but he certainly left the audience hungry for a more demonstrative presentation!

In the health and medical category, we were treated to a number of entrepreneurs, but in the end, Heart Health Intelligence took first place, with their smart, sensing toilet seat. This will allow for innocuous and consistent monitoring of patient health and targeted health interventions. In second, K-Neesio showed off their chops with Nu-Nee, a product which allows individuals suffering from runner’s knee to resume the active lifestyle they love. Antithesis finished third in the category with their line of healthy, but tasty food, which they termed “intelligently indulgent.” The judges were wowed by their pitch, but also by the samples they provided!

Despite all of the excellent teams, only one could move on to the semi-finals in Pittsburgh, and AlphaLab Gear is looking forward to welcoming Heart Health Intelligence to the steel city for the next round of pitches. However, as Matt Verlinich noted, applications for the next round of pitches are also open, and with the strong companies present, we hope that some others might also find their way to Pittsburgh! For those interested, the application can be found at https://alphalabgear.org/hardwarecup/apply/.