Eau Claire (WQOW) - An Eau Claire firefighter advanced in a national, multi-million dollar challenge for entrepreneurs and innovators.
Jeff Dyke started his company, Northern Star Fire, after winning Eau Claire's Economic Development Corporation Idea Challenge in 2014. His invention, called the Northern Star, has now advanced as a semi-finalist in Verizon Wireless' Powerful Answers Award competition. This year's categories for the contest included solutions in transportation, emergency response, and the internet of things.
Dykes said the Northern Star would be added to a firefighter's mask and could help them navigate in low visibility environments, but the design is so simple, he asked News 18 to wait until the product has a patent before describing or showing it.
Dykes' idea came from talk around the Eau Claire Fire House and 20 years of firefighting experience. He said the U.S. Fire Service has over 100 line of duty deaths each year, and hoped to help lower that number.
"There are times when you literally cannot see your hand in front of your face, and you're going into resident's houses you've never been in before," Dykes said. "I'm hoping to make myself safer, to make my brothers and sisters in the fire service safer, but also to spur some economic development here in Eau Claire, make some jobs, and bring to light the dangers that our job inherently has."
Dykes hopes to find out if he's made it into the top ten of Verizon's contest next week. The winner of the challenge will receive $1 million. He said regardless, he hopes to start testing the Northern Star within the next few months and have a soft launch later this year.
Dykes added the Northern Star could also be used for other professional or recreational purposes like scuba diving or snowmobiling.