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Wisconsin Energy Institute

Wisconsin Energy and Sustainability Challenge

Wisconsin Energy and Sustainability Challenge

The development of new solutions to advance sustainable and affordable energy will be a vital ingredient to America's competitive future. Historically, solutions to pressing global issues have emerged from innovative approaches and fresh, inspired perspectives. Students at UW-Madison are exceptionally suited for solving the sustainability challenge through innovation and entrepreneurship. Among research universities, UW-Madison ranks in the top ten, with an entrepreneurship program ranking in the top 25 in the nation. As a university, it is second only to Harvard in the number of alumni who are CEO's of Fortune 500 companies and ranks first in the number of students who have worked in the Peace Corps. This famous entrepreneurial spirit and vision for social change make our campus ideal for a competition focused on the issue of global sustainability. We invite all UW-Madison students to contribute their own creative solutions and adapt to the related risks through the Wisconsin Energy & Sustainability Challenge.

2015 Winners

The Dvorak Energy Innovation Prize

First Place - $5,000 prize: Remex Static Mixer

The Dvorak Energy Innovation Prize for best energy-related technology was awarded to Eric Ronning (mechanical engineering), Will Doniger (materials science and engineering), and Brian Pekron (nuclear engineering), for the invention of the Remex Static Mixer. This mixer uses a unique design to combine chemicals or live cells in a reactor without any moving parts. Situated in a pipe or cylinder, the static mixer gently blends fluids as they flow through, using up to 33 percent less energy compared to other mixers on the market.

Second Place - $1,000 prize: Dr. Detector

Dr. Detector uses unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, equipped with gas detection sensors for large scale air quality monitoring. The drones will also have a built-in GPS and fly along pre-programmed routes to detect air pollutants, such as methane leaking from natural gas pipelines, saving on labor costs. The team consists of Cheng Liu, Ph.D. candidate in Nuclear Engineering, Hanwen Chen, M.S. candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Kelsey Beuning, a junior studying International Studies and Marketing, and Bill Mulligan, a junior majoring in Biochemistry.

Third Place - $500 prize: Emonix

Emonix is an automated heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system for homes that can control the temperature of different rooms using sensors and smart vents. This has the potential to save energy and improve comfort by reducing unnecessary heating or cooling in rooms that are unoccupied. Team Emonix is led by Neil Klingensmtih, a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Engineering; Bharath Krishnamurthy, a graduate student in Electrical and Computer Engineering; Ananth Sridhar, a graduate student in Electrical Engineering; and Shashank Gupta, a graduate student in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

The Global Stewards Sustainability Prize

First Place - $5,000 prize: Serving Earth LLC

Serving Earth LLC, founded by Political Science and Environmental Studies student Jennifer Sharpe, seeks to create a more sustainable and cost-effective solution to disposable boxes at dining halls and cafeterias. The company has created a reusable to-go box made from recycled material that can be checked out from cafeterias and dropped off at convenient sites. Potential users include university dining halls and corporate cafeterias.

Second Place - $1,000 prize: Project Drsti

Vitamin A deficiency is a health concern throughout the developing world that affects more than 200 million children every year. Project Drsti, made of Chris Johnson, M.S. candidate in Bacteriology, and Kevin Fritz, B.S. candidate in Medical Microbiology and Immunology, have described their product as "a sustainable solution to vitamin A deficiency." Project Drsti will develop a probiotic bacterium engineered to make a precursor of vitamin A. The strain will be inexpensive to produce, store and transport, and can be easily added to yogurt or other fermented dairy products.

Third Place - $500 prize: VitaCycle

Microgreens are young vegetables harvested in seven to 14 days that, pound for pound, contain more nutrients than their mature vegetable counterparts. VitaCycle, led by Mamyrkhan Kassymov, a junior in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Jon Seaton, a graduate student in Biomedical Engineering, and Luke VandenLangenberg, a recent B.S. graduate in Nuclear Engineering, have developed an affordable and modular method to produce, transport, and consume microgreens using minimal water, soil and labor, suitable for urban cultivation.

The Challenge offers two prizes:

The Global Stewards Sustainability Prize 

With generous funding from the Global Stewards Society (John F. & Mary Cooper; Gary & Ellora Cooper; Christine Cooper; John & Mary K. Noreika; Peter Vogel, Vogel Brothers Building Company; David Beck-Engel, J.H. Findorff & Son; Scott J. Repert, Superior Health Linens), The Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) has established the Global Stewards Sustainability Prize (GSSP) to inspire UW-Madison students from every department to create innovative solutions to the causes and impacts of global environmental change.

Successful projects will improve environmental sustainability (e.g. reduce energy use, improve water quality, protect biodiversity). We invite all forms of innovation, whether technical or social in nature, and we strongly encourage interdisciplinary teams.

Read the Global Stewards Sustainability Prize Guidlines

The Dvorak Energy Prize

Established in 2011 by UW-Madison College of Engineering alumni Stephen Dvorak, his son Eric Dvorak and the Dvorak extended family, the Dvorak Energy Prize offers cash prizes for the best energy-related technology ideas. Participating undergraduate and graduate students must submit a paper documenting the idea and its market potential, along with a prototype or proof of concept statement on the technology. Student ideas are not restricted to any specific category and can relate to energy generation, storage, efficiency or sustainability.

Read the Dvorak Energy Prize Guidlines

Read about prior Wisconsin Energy and Sustainability Challenge winners »