Omer Arad was on a routine dive when he had one of the most terrifying experiences of his life.

“More than 80 feet below sea level, a malfunction prevented the airflow from the tank to the regulator in my mouth,” said Arad, a computer-science student at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

“In an instant one of my favorite hobbies turned into a genuine nightmare. I tried to signal my buddy, but he was far away and wasn’t looking in my direction. Luckily, I came out of it alive.”

The experience led Arad to conceptualize a wearable panic bracelet that lets the diver call his or her partner even when there is no eye contact between them. The idea earned his team first place at this year’s Israeli finals of the international 3-Day Startup (3DS) competition, held in January at the Technion and organized by the university’s Bronica Entrepreneurship Center.

Dubbed “BLU,” the wearable distress bracelet would be sold in pairs, to be worn by diving buddies. A simple press of a button immediately would transmit a distress signal – via light and vibration – to the buddy diver.

“Our mission was to make the diving world safer,” said Arad. “Hundreds of divers die in diving accidents every year, and the currently available solutions for transmitting a distress signal are inadequate, very expensive and designed for professional divers.”

Other members of the BLU team were Aviv Tahar and Oz Meir from the Technion; Manik Arora and Bernadette Che from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore; and Orit Dolev, a graduate of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan.

Students during the 3DS contest at the Technion. Photo courtesy of the Technion Spokesperson’s Office
Students during the 3DS contest at the Technion. Photo courtesy of the Technion Spokesperson’s Office

This year’s Israeli 3DS competition included 45 students from varied disciplines, selected through a rigorous screening process. Divided into nine teams (“startups”), the students worked with mentors — venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, marketing and business development professionals — and each team presented its concept to a panel of professional investors from leading venture capital funds, including Glilot Capital, AfterDox and the Alon Incubator.

By virtue of its top placement in 3DS, the BLU team won automatic entry to BizTEC, the Technion’s national student entrepreneurship competition, a seven-month program. The Demo Day winner next October will win $10,000 in seed money, and the top 12 teams will be invited to join the BizTEC accelerator.