Mechanodontics' behind-the-teeth braces capture 2019 Cozad Challenge

Mechanodontics' behind-the-teeth braces capture 2019 Cozad Challenge

CHAMPAIGN — A startup that makes braces placed behind the teeth took first place in the 20th annual Cozad New Venture Challenge.

Mechanodontics received $25,000 and plans to use that money to outsource less of the manufacturing of the braces.

"We're trying to bring some machinery in-house, so you can make some of the braces in-house," said co-founder James Wratten, a grad student in math at the University of Illinois. "And then we are trying to get more patients and things like that, so this helps subsidize some of those costs."

The company was founded a couple years ago and has treated around 80 patients so far, Wratten said.

The braces are "able to reduce the treatment time pretty significantly," he said. Mechanodontics also says the braces are more comfortable and allow for easier cleaning than with traditional braces.

The company was one of around 70 to compete Wednesday at the I Hotel in the Cozad New Venture Challenge. The challenge, run by the Technology Entrepreneur Center at the UI's College of Engineering is named after V. Dale Cozad, the founder of Cozad Asset Management. More than $200,000 was awarded Wednesday, with several companies sponsoring prizes and in-kind services.

For example, the $7,500 Amazon Alexa Prize was awarded to the startup that best uses its voice assistant.

Others offered legal services or co-working space.

The other prize winners included:

HexNext, which came in second place and received $10,000 for its gymnastics mat designed to provide a safer landing for athletes.

DeepWalk, which received the $7,500 third-place prize and for its work developing computer vision solutions to help contractors and engineers comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Turkbox, which came in fourth place and received $5,000 for its tools to help online publishers monetize their articles without a paywall.