November 26, 2012

Turning tires into technology

By UW Foundation

UW senior’s green idea thrives with entrepreneurship support

Ricky HeadshotWhere others see piles of rubber, Ricky Holm eyes a heap of opportunity. Mountains of used tires once littered his favorite drag race entryways and rimmed the tracks at his motocross competitions. But with encouragement from his father, Ricky developed a way to recycle old tires into a new technology.

“Innovation is in our blood – I knew I could solve this huge environmental problem,” says Ricky, a senior in the Foster School of Business. “The UW gave me the resources and the motivation to really flesh out my idea.”

That idea came in the form of the big, concrete barriers that line highways and roads. Ricky wants to replace them with greener, safer ones made of mulched tires – rubber that would otherwise be burned, exported or idle in landfills. An environmental innovation class introduced him to engineering students who helped bring this green opportunity to life.

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Ricky founded Green Innovative Safety Technologies (GIST) with three of his classmates. As a team, their green “Jersey barriers” won the $10,000 grand prize at the Foster School’s 2012 Environmental Innovation Challenge, a prototype development competition funded by the UW and private support.

“I think Ricky’s team won because it tackled a really big problem,” says Connie Bourassa-Shaw, director of the UW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which organizes the challenge. “He walked into our competition with this 2,000-pound block of rubber and won everybody over with his passion and promise.”

It’s the potential to make a difference and start something new that gets Ricky fired up. An entrepreneur at heart, Ricky plans to spend his career solving problems by finding innovative solutions. For the next six months, Ricky is putting his concrete alternative to the test thanks to the Jones Milestones/Foster Accelerator, a UW program that helps student start-ups become viable small businesses.

“Without support from the Environmental Innovation Challenge and the Jones/Foster program, this concept would have been just a sketch on paper,” Ricky says. “Being part of the UW’s unique effort to nurture small student businesses has given me real-world experience I wouldn’t find anywhere else—it’s changed my life.”

Watch the video

Ricky Holm and his Green Innovative Safety Technologies teammates explain their green “Jersey barriers” idea at the 2012 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge.

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