In 2015, University of Wisconsin–Madison students had not one, but two opportunities to develop creative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing energy and environmental issues.
The Wisconsin Energy and Sustainability Challenge (WESC) – which combines the Dvorak Energy Innovation Prize and the Global Stewards Sustainability Prize – puts student teams in competition to design innovative approaches to energy-related technology and global stewardship.
Since WESC is migrating from a spring competition deadline to a fall one, it took place twice this year, once in April and once in November.
In the spring competition, the $5,000 Dvorak Energy Innovation Prize for the best energy-related technology went to Eric Ronning, Will Doniger, and Brian Pekron for their energy-efficient industrial mixer. The Remex Static Mixer blends fluids of chemicals or live cells by gently moving them through a pipe or cylinder that doesn’t have any rotating parts, using up to 33 percent less energy compared to other mixers on the market.
Jennifer Sharpe and her company, Serving Earth LLC, won the first place prize of $5,000 in the Global Stewards Sustainability category for creating a more sustainable and cost-effective solution to disposable boxes at dining halls and cafeterias. The company’s reusable food container can be checked out from cafeterias and dropped off at convenient sites, saving money and reducing waste.
In the fall competition, one student team had the distinction of capturing first place for both the Dvorak Energy Innovation Prize and Global Stewards Sustainability Prize, winning a total of $10,000. Emonix H2O, a monitoring system for residential water softeners developed by Neil Klingensmith, Zachary LaValee, and Bharadwaj Krishnamurthy, reduces salt and energy consumption by tracking tap water quality to determine when the softening process should initiate.
The second place winner for both prizes also went to one student team. Winning a total of $3,000 in prize money were Jack Tilka and Matthew Starr for their Capacitive Triboelectric Energy Harvester. The harvester reduces the reliance of bicycle accessories, such as headlights or smartphones, on batteries by converting mechanical energy from moving bike parts into electrical energy that can power these accessories.
A newly created $500 Energy Hub People’s Choice Award went to Craig Poulin and Joe Goldman for uGrid Solutions, a business model for redesigning the U.S. power grid to better integrate renewable energy generation and distribution and reduce the country’s electricity-related carbon footprint.
Co-hosted by the Wisconsin Energy Institute and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, WESC is supported by the Dvorak family and the Global Stewards Society. The spring event had additional sponsorship from the David Marca Memorial Fund for Student Energy Projects and the fall event from the student group Energy Hub.
The annual competition is now held in the fall only, with the next round of winners announced at the Energy Hub student conference in fall 2016.
Got some innovative ideas and thinking about competing? Guidelines for entry can be found here.