The Oil Magnet, Diamond Challenge 2019 Finalist
It seems like just yesterday we heard about the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 that completely devastated ocean ecosystems and continues to pose health concerns today. An environmental disaster with such catastrophic proportions takes years to resolve, and even then the ecosystem will rarely recuperate back to its original state. Sol Hwangbo had always been interested in finding innovative ways to solve this prevalent issue: “Sophomore year of high school, I created a science project regarding ferrofluid, and its ability to remove oil out of water with the additional help of a strong magnet”. When she met Marisa Patel-O’Connor and Eden Gorevoy, two students who realized the potential environmental implications of her project, the idea of the Oil Magnet was born. The Oil Magnet is an eco-friendly solution to cleaning up oil spills, saving companies the oil that they spill without introducing pollutants to the environment. Their innovative idea proved successful, ultimately winning them second place in the Social Innovation track of Diamond Challenge 2019.
In the beginning stages of their idea development, they had the challenge of researching the necessary technology to create such a product while also finding an enticing way to market it to oil companies. Marisa explained, “The process of fleshing out our idea required us to spend a lot of time in the lab testing our idea over and over again on a small scale, and also focusing a lot on the commercialization aspect of things. Now that we had this idea, we had to consider how we could actually make this a reality. So we started from the basics, started talking to people about it and getting feedback on our direction and business model from various mentors that we reached out to.” With all these daunting tasks, the Oil Magnet team members admitted there were many challenges they had to overcome in order to create an award-winning result. “We definitely had to squeeze in a lot of research and preparation into tight deadlines before, especially with regard to getting materials ready for pitches and getting the technology to a place where we are comfortable showing off progress.” Eden recalled. However, all their hard work paid off in the long run, as Eden added: “We all work very well together and have learned to delegate tasks over the year and a half we’ve been working!”
The Diamond Challenge also provided an accessible avenue for the Oil Magnet team members to be inspired by the variety of young entrepreneurs just as motivated and determined as them. For Marisa, her experience was so valuable because of the important connections she managed to forge at the competition: “The Diamond Challenge was an opportunity for us to meet driven and like minded, yet diverse people from all around the world — the most valuable part of the experience for me. Even before the summit, we were connected with one of the finalists from last year’s Diamond Challenge who was from the other side of the world. Being mentored by him was both really fun and and helpful for us because we were able to see the amazing projects that he’s been working on and hear out his feedback on our project.” As for the Diamond Challenge Summit itself, Sol reflects: “The Diamond Challenge was a learning experience. We learned not only about pitching and entrepreneurship as a whole, but we also had the chance to learn about other cultures and the slew of interesting ventures at the competition.” Marisa adds, “The Summit was most inspiring and educational — I learned a lot more about entrepreneurship from the various breakout sessions, keynote speakers, and conversations with my peers. Even several weeks after the summit, the Diamond Challenge opens a door to so many more opportunities that are putting us on the right path to making our idea a reality.”
So what do the next steps look like for the Oil Magnet team? “During this summer, we’re continuing the work on the Oil Magnet together,” Marisa says. “In the fall, we’re heading off the college! I’ll be studying at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Eden will be going to Yale, and Sol’s going to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.” Luckily, the three team members have no plans to disband. “Though we’ll be at different schools, we are planning to continue progressing with our startup,” Marisa explains.
For future potential participants of the Diamond Challenge, Eden advises, “Don’t be afraid to think big and think bold! Ideas like that are really important to pursue and develop, and the Diamond Challenge is an excellent place to try out big ideas and get super valuable feedback.” While the beginning steps might seem difficult, she emphasizes that the benefits far outweigh the costs: “The Diamond Challenge was able to offer me the place to develop as an entrepreneur & step outside of my comfort zone while surrounded by others like me: young entrepreneurs!”
Sol agrees, stating: “Even if your idea doesn’t fit into the mold of an app-based platform or some cool new tech, don’t disregard it, because there’s too many problems in the world that won’t be solved by just those.”
Marisa adds her own short but sweet words of encouragement: “Just do it!”
With their creativity and teamwork, the team at Oil Magnet have a solid plan for future success. Their dedication and ingenuity will undoubtedly create positive environmental impacts in generations to come, and we can’t wait to see the great things they will accomplish!
No matter where our Diamond Challenge alumni go, we are constantly amazed by how they continue to make an impact on the world for the better.
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