15 Dec 2020

Predicting cloud cover focus of winning innovation project

A student team using a data-driven approach and machine learning to forecast cloud cover for the solar industry was named the winner of the University of Hawaiʻi Breakthrough Innovation Challenge on November 19. The annual entrepreneurial competition is hosted by the Shidler College of Business’ Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship (PACE).

Nimbus AI’s project provides an effective solution to solar power grid managers to make quick decisions based on cloud cover forecasts. Judges awarded team members Kyle HartPeter Sadowski and Giuseppe Torri first place and a $5,000 prize.

Judges selected Polu Energy as winner of the $2,500 second place prize, and Next-Gen Antiviral Respirator won a $1,000 prize that was determined by votes from audience members.


  • Hawkr—feeding communities from cloud micro-kitchens (team members: Daniel Jenkins and Liyen Tan)
  • Next-Gen Antiviral Respirator—protecting frontline workers with innovation in full-face respirators (team members: Shafkat Anowar and Daniel Danis)
  • Nimbus AI—assisting solar grid managers with neural network technology to forecast cloud cover (team members: Kyle HartPeter Sadowski and Giuseppe Torri)
  • Polu Energy—generating renewable energy with ocean water (team members: Tate Castillo and David Ma)

Prior to the final event, contestants submitted a 2-minute video detailing their breakthrough idea and its market potential. A preliminary judging panel selected the finalists. PACE then matched the finalists with business mentors to help the teams further identify commercial opportunities for the idea and develop a 5-minute presentation.

“This pandemic has spotlighted major problems in our world,” PACE Executive Director Peter Rowan said. “Entrepreneurs are born to solve these problems. The Breakthrough Innovation Challenge gives University of Hawaiʻi students a platform to share their innovations and ideas that evolve in their labs and minds because of a desire to provide real solutions. These students are bright examples of a hopeful future.”

The challenge, which was hosted online for the first time, was sponsored by one of the state’s largest CPA firms, Accuity LLP. The finalists presented their ideas to a judging panel comprised of David Hijirida, CEO of Simple Finance; Wes Johnston, managing director of Venderity Capital LLC; Julia Okinaka, president of Accuity Consulting Services; and Barry Weinman, chairman of the board of directors, Kineticor, Inc.

More on the UH Breakthrough Innovation Challenge

Now in its 10th year, the UH Breakthrough Innovation Challenge is an entrepreneurial competition that exposes UH students in all disciplines to entrepreneurial and innovative ways of thinking; provides a platform for participants to showcase their ingenious ideas to offer more efficient, stronger, better and novel products or services; and brings recognition and attention to outstanding entrepreneurs at UH.

The challenge matches competitors with business mentors and teaches students to research market opportunities, seek customer validation and determine the commercial potential of their idea. It is organized by the Pacific Asian Center for Entrepreneurship in partnership with the UH Mānoa College of Engineering and the William S. Richardson School of Law.

graphic that says first place, $5,000