This year was the first time that Engineers for a Sustainable World hosted the Alternative Energy Challenge at UT Austin. We are happy to say that the competition was a great success! Three teams spent roughly 6 weeks building their designs and the results were quite impressive. The teams were:
Team Gurlz: The Humble Umbrella. A patio umbrella that can be deployed at restaurants and coffee shops around Austin that utilizes solar and wind power to charge electronics.
The Dream Team: Solar Powered Rooftop Hydroponics System to grow food in urban environments.
Team RAJ: A Peltier thermoelectric generator to capture heat energy released by appliances such as light bulbs and convert the heat energy to electrical energy.
In the final judging round, each team presented their research and prototypes to an audience of roughly 40 UT Austin Engineering students as well as three judges. In the end, the judges selected Team Gurlz as the winner of the competition. We are very proud to present them with a cash prize as well as recognition as the Spring 2014 winners of the Alternative Energy Challenge!
We would like to congratulate all the teams who participated in the Spring 2014 ESW Alternative Energy Challenge. Your hard work and dedication was very apparent and the judges were thoroughly impressed. The Dream Team plans to continue working on the solar powered filtration system for their hydroponic system. Team RAJ is still working through the technical details of their ambitious project. Team Gurlz spoke about implementing their prototype at a local coffee shop in Austin.
With its most recent addition of a council in Tanzania (May 2014), the World Green Building Council continues its growth throughout the world. Currently covering these Regions: Africa; Americas; Asia/Pacific; Europe, MENA – “…networks are set up to focus on relevant activity and facilitate collaboration between more than 90 local GBCs for greater regional impact. Each region sets its own work program, with companies partnering to deliver agreed actions.”
2nd Place (awarded $7,500) WE ARE SO PROUD – Glad we are part of Matt’s in crowd. I Love Free Concerts,
(Matthew Diaz, Lehman College):A curated calendar website and email newsletter platform offering free live music event listings, serving one quarter of a million consumers in New York City and the greater area.
With only two classes on my schedule in my last semester at UC Merced, I decided I needed to find some way to keep myself busy. So when a friend asked me to join his team for UC Merced’s Mobile App Challenge, I was interested but honestly somewhat clueless to how I could contribute as an economics major with, let’s say, not a very technical background especially in making mobile apps. But after thinking it over I decided it would be an interesting side project where I would be able to exercise my creativity. And if we won something in the process, it would just make my decision even better.
The Mobile App Challenge at UC Merced is hosted by CITRIS@UC Merced, a UC research administration. Fifteen undergraduate student teams compete for awards in a variety of categories. It was founded at UC Merced in 2011. Currently, it runs annually at the Berkeley and Merced campuses in order to encourage entrepreneurial and innovative thinking through mobile apps. You can find all of the apps made over the years here.
After we brainstormed for a bit on how exactly we would go about making an app, we formed a team between myself, two environmental engineers: Jordan Vida and Jeff Laird, and our resident programmer and former participant in the Mobile App Challenge, David Eighmey. The initial idea that we came up with was “Shower<Less” (be clear to distinguish showering less as opposed to going without showers). As we are currently in the middle of a drought—one felt stronger here in the Central Valley than elsewhere in California—we decided our app would be an attempt to limit water usage. We feature a method of limiting one of the more controllable indoor water uses: showers. Essentially what the app features at the moment is a timer, educational materials, and a data visualization of how long one spends in the shower correlated with how much water they used. Clearly, a vision for the future was needed. So I found my role. I ended up in charge of handling the presentation materials, creating the poster, and thinking about the future business potential for the app. If you want, you can find some more information on our app here.
We met a few times to go over the technical details of the app which wasn’t the difficult part—the hard part was finding a way to convince people that our app would be useful. We already anticipated that most people would say, “But it’s just a timer!” We decided the best way to do this was to create an incentive scheme that we knew would be intensely scrutinized during the semi-finals… which is exactly what happened.
This past weekend, the Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC) hosted its second annual Cleanweb Hackathon. This event was a powerful embodiment of BERC’s mission – to connect, engage, and educate its members in order to foster innovation and action; it was a forum for attendees to learn about the trends in cleanweb, learn about basic application development skills, and build connections with each other. After an evening of mingling and a morning of skills training, the 40+ participants (who hailed from UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs, and the greater Bay Area) raced to build web-based applications to address current challenges in energy and water.
The Hackathon, which was selected as Students for a Smarter Planet project, posed questions across different tracks. Each team selected a track to focus on; one grand prize was awarded for the winner, and individual prizes were awarded within each track. Fueled only by pizza, optimism, and an irrepressible desire to change the world, our teams sought to address these questions:
- Energy: How can our appliances and devices work for us by saving money and increase the ability of the power grid to make use of intermittent renewable power? Define a new approach to controlling appliances and devices that is responsive to electricity prices and other real-time and predictive data streams (e.g., weather forecasts).
- Water: California is an ongoing drought, yet not enough action is being taken by individuals, businesses, and cities to conserve water and lower the collective water footprint of our society! Design a web application or visualization that can lead to better understanding and action on water use in California. Consider both direct water use as well as indirect water use (from our consumption of food and electricity for instance).
Our judges were impressed by the resourcefulness and creativity of the teams. In a matter of hours, they devised innovative ways to meaningfully use energy and water data, employ sensors in entirely new applications, and empower consumers with the data they need to take action on energy and resource issues. And now (drumroll please!), here are the 2014 Cleanweb Hackathon winners:
- GRAND PRIZE: Smarter Sprinklr - A combination of open source hardware and software to make intelligent home irrigation schedules based on current weather, drought, seasonal, and user-based information.
- WINNER – WATER: QE Design – Different foods from different places can have the same nutrition, but require vastly different amounts of water. Given all the data available today, what’s the optimal way to eat, to sustain both ourselves and the Earth? QE Design’s solution analyzes USDA and Water Footprint Network data to make diet recommendations.
- WINNER – ENERGY: Greenvite - The smart, green, social way to organize a meeting and book a conference room with your colleagues. The app analyzes available conference rooms and time slots, and then calculates associated energy use and costs (taking into account weather, HVAC loads, time of day, and other data), so that the least amount of energy is used while saving money.
- RUNNER-UP – ENERGY: DashPower - The app allows building managers to catalog and forecast energy costs, and compare those to their allotted budget. The app was designed with school facility managers in mind, since energy costs are the 2nd highest line item expenditure for schools after teacher salary.
Please check out our winners’ apps! Although the competition ended this weekend, we hope that these projects will live on (in fact, we’ve got a track record for being the launching pad of cleanweb apps! Check out last year’s winners Watttime and Thermostatly). And while the teams competed for cash prizes, the real winners here are the students and our community. The teams’ innovative yet practical applications inspired us all to consider our everyday use of energy and resources in novel ways.