Sunburst Sensors Advances to Finals of $2 Million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE

Missoula, Mont. (April 29, 2015) – Sunburst Sensors, LLC, a Missoula, Montana based company, has advanced to the final phase of the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE, a global competition to create innovative pH sensor technology that will accurately measure and advance the understanding of ocean acidification.

Beginning on May 14 in Honolulu, teams will board the R/V Kilo Moana, a research vessel owned by the U.S. Navy and operated through UNOLSby the University of Hawaii Marine Center, and embark on a week-long deep sea trial to assess ocean pH values throughout the water column at Station ALOHA, a 110 square mile region in the Pacific Ocean, located approximately 100 miles off the northern shore of Oahu. During this six-day period, sensors will be put through rigorous performance tests focused on stability and precision, while battling real-world pressure scenarios at depths of up to 3,000 meters.

Sunburst Sensors’ ‘tSAMI-pH’ device was designed to handle extreme conditions by using a titanium pressure housing that should allow it to survive the 3000 meters deployment depth. The instrument will collect pH data as it descends and is raised back to the surface.

“We are honored to find ourselves in the finals of the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE,” said James Beck, Sunburst Sensors CEO. “This contest has brought together some very talented teams and smart people from all around the world. To make it this far is a testament to the hard work we’ve put into our products. It has spurred us to pursue some ideas we might not have tried otherwise. Whatever the outcome, this has been a valuable learning experience for everyone at our company.”

Four other teams are advancing to the final stage: ANB Sensors (Cambridge, England), HpHS (Yokosuka, Japan), Team Durafet (Plymouth, Minn., U.S.) and Team Xylem (Bergen, Norway and Beverly, Mass., U.S.).To reach this point, teams had to successfully put their sensors through a three-month test in controlled laboratory conditions at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute last fall, followed by a month-long performance test in a coastal environment at the Seattle Aquarium this past February. The winners of the competition are scheduled to be announced in July 2015.

Teams participating in the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE may compete for two available prize purses: the $1M accuracy purse, based on performance, and the $1M affordability purse, based on cost and usability. Sunburst’s other entry, the ‘iSAMI’ was designed for the affordability purse and cannot deploy to significant depths required in the accuracy purse.

For more information about each team, visit

About Sunburst Sensors, LLC

Sunburst Sensors, LLC was formed in 1999 and is a world leader in the measurement of ocean pCO2 and pH. The company is owned by University of Montana Professor Michael DeGrandpre, who serves as Chief Technical Officer, and James Beck, who serves as CEO.


Founded in 1995, XPRIZE is the leading organization solving the world’s Grand Challenges by creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prizes in five areas: Learning; Exploration; Energy & Environment; Global Development; and Life Sciences. Active prizes include the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE, the $10M Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE and the $2M Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE. For more information, visit

About Wendy Schmidt

Wendy Schmidt is President of The Schmidt Family Foundation, which strives to advance the development of clean energy and support the wiser use of natural resources. She also is founder of the foundation's grant-making arm, The 11th Hour Project, and Climate Central, an independent organization of leading scientists and journalists researching and reporting the facts about our changing climate and its impact on the American public. With her husband, Eric Schmidt, Wendy created the Schmidt Ocean Institute in 2009, which provides opportunities for urgent ocean studies aboard the RV Falkor oceanographic research vessel. Her work at non-profit ReMain Nantucket focuses on generating a model for smart community downtown development on the island, where her family spends summers. Wendy earned an M.J. in Journalism from he University of California, Berkeley and a B.A. magna cum laude from Smith College. She serves on the boards of The Natural Resources Defense Council, Climate Central, The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, The Trust for Governors Island, XPRIZE Foundation, The 1851 Trust, Grist and MAIYET.