SUNY Oswego senior meteorology major Daniel Maslowski won this year’s Launch It student entrepreneurship competition with an idea to save lives and resources. 

The concept for SWTRS -- the Severe Weather Threat Ranking System -- has evolved from his initial ideas, but winning the competition has allowed him to pursue a YouTube channel providing education, precautions and tips related to severe weather.

Maslowski recalled receiving an email from the college for the competition hosted by the School of Business and Enactus student organization, and “I thought that I could finally put some ideas in the back of my mind but I never actually worked on into action,” he recalled. “I thought this was the perfect opportunity to go forward and actually pursue one of my ideas and turn it into a pitch.”

As a meteorology major and chief meteorologist for WTOP-10 TV, he had looked at severe weather statistics, and a couple of jarring figures stood out. 

“I noticed that, within the past three years, just in the U.S., we’ve had $460.4 billion in damages from severe weather and 3,569 deaths.” Maslowski explained. “I think the reason why they are so high is because of a lack of communication.”

His proposed solution “will get crucial information, safety precautions and tips, to people that need it so we could lower those numbers,” he said.

The competition paired Maslowski with 2012 alumnus Michael Colucci, director of business development for East Coast Warehouse and Distribution, and the resulting presentation impressed the Launch It judges to capture first prize and a $2,500 award sponsored by Wired. But the adventure for the SWTRS concept was only beginning.

Maslowski originally envisioned an app that included multiple layers including data from the National Weather Service. That idea hit a pothole when the NWS said it could not help with the app because government agencies are limited in what they can supply to commercial enterprises, he noted -- but they were still intrigued by the idea and supported his goals. 

“I spoke with them about how I can still make SWTRS come to life even if it's going to be on my own and we brainstormed some ideas,” Maslowski said. “With the main goal of SWTRS being to inform people about severe weather and provide helpful advice to save lives and property from damage, we thought of ways I can provide that information.”

Educational videos

The idea of developing a YouTube channel emerged when he found a physics channel that addressed topics why UV rays are harmful, “but made it fun and exciting,” he said. 

“I spent all winter break working with a 3D animation software to replicate severe weather events and show people the damage they can cause and how to prepare for them,” Maslowski said of learning a free system called Blender. 

Contacting the National Weather Service also provided a lasting connection that can benefit both of them in another way, as Maslowski now has an informal internship with the NWS, practicing animation skills through creating graphics for them to use. 

“I have already used a small portion of the prize money to buy the proper audio and camera equipment so I can start filming episodes,” Maslowski said. “This is going to be completely different than any weather-related YouTube channel because it will involve heavy animation and storytelling to bring these weather events to life and will be treated like the show ‘Cosmos, A Space Time Odyssey’ which is where I got some of my inspiration.” 

The first-ever virtual Launch It, coordinated and presented via SUNY Oswego’s Engage platform, saw 13 students and their alumni mentors make final presentations on Oct. 30.

Keith Loh’s Composting Initiative concept earned second place and a $1,500 prize sponsored by Wegmans Food Markets. Mairna Yousef’s Audio Guidance for the Blind project earned the third-place prize of $1,000 sponsored by Sherwin Williams. The Crowd Favorite award, and a $300 prize, went to Nicole Noel for her Networking App.