Sunburst Sensors Wins Both Purses of Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE


Missoula, Mont. (July 22, 2015) - Sunburst Sensors, LLC won first place in both purses of the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE bringing home $1.5 million. The awards took place on Monday, July 20 at an event hosted by Foreign Affairs in New York City.  Sunburst Sensors entered two devices, both variants on its existing SAMI-pH technology.  The tSAMI entered into the accuracy purse was built to withstand the 3000 meter (1.9 mile) depth requirement in deployments at the Ocean Station ALOHA.  The iSAMI entered into the accuracy purse is a prototype of a forth-coming product meant to be much less expensive for use in shallow deployments.

All five finalists were represented at the gala award ceremony, with ANB Sensors capturing second prize in the affordability purse, and Team Durafet taking second in the accuracy purse. Sunburst Sensors, represented by co-owners James Beck and Michael DeGrandpre, went to the stage twice to collect the first place trophies.

"It's a great honor and a big surprise," said Beck, "We know we make a good sensor, but so do the other finalists," adding that he was extremely proud of his team. "We've achieved something pretty special, especially considering we're such a small company.  My hat is off to everyone at Sunburst Sensors in helping make this happen."

To reach the finals, Sunburst successfully put their sensors through a rigorous three-month test in controlled laboratory conditions at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute this past fall, followed by a 1 month deployment at the Seattle Aquarium where water from the Puget Sound was pumped through a specially designed testing tank.  The five finalist teams participated in the deep-sea testing in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. Beck, who was on the research vessel during the deep deployments, said he wasn't certain how the tSAMI would perfrom. "Temperature, pH and pressure are all changing really fast, and it's not something we could simulate.  Our normal units are designed for 600 meters."

The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE is a global competition that challenges teams of engineers, scientists and innovators from all over the world to create durable pH sensor technology that will affordably, accurately and efficiently measure ocean chemistry from its shallowest to its deepest depths.

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.