PennSustains, the University of Pennsylvania’s first sustainability solution competition, hosted its inaugural event on October 19, 2013. The contest came together in just six months through the efforts of members from the Society of Women Engineers, Engineers without Borders, SEAS Green, and Penn International Sustainability Association. Benefactor Andy Rachleff, an alumnus and chairman of the SEAS Board of Overseers, challenged Penn students to devise something that celebrated “the joy of building things” and the fun of engineering. Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) and Conestoga Bank also generously sponsored the competition.
With Rachleff’s two ideas as inspiration, PennSustains has three goals in mind: making Penn a more sustainable campus, making Philadelphia a more sustainable city, and utilizing engineering in these endeavors. The competition acts as a basis for idea generation and collaboration. In PennSustains’ first year, 9 teams composed of 29 participants entered ideas ranging from piezoelectric tiles to a smart shower system. Teams submitted business plans and presentations to a panel of experienced judges from academia and industry, all with ties to the sustainability sector. Materials were scored based on motivation, design, implementation, financial feasibility, and potential impact. Winning teams took home various prizes totaling over $7,000 to further their ventures.
PennOrb, led by Nathaniel Chan and Jason Choi, was the grand prize winner and awarded $3,000 to pursue the idea. Chan and Choi proposed color-changing plastic orbs to be installed outside college house entrances; the orb’s color reflects the respective house’s energy consumption to raise awareness of students’ energy usage at Penn.
“It was an amazing opportunity to introduce a brand-new event to Penn Engineering that features projects with serious impact on people’s livelihoods. All submitted ideas creatively addressed the three pillars of sustainability—people, profit, and the planet—and I look forward to seeing how PennSustains grows and develops in future years,” says Nicole Woon, Lead Director of PennSustains.
PennSustains 2013 Winners
Grand Prize – $3000 – PennOrb – Nathaniel Chan, Jason Choi
2nd Place – $2000 – Poseidon Works – Qiangeng Xu, Haoran Sun, Ben Shi
3rd Place – $1000 – GreenVote – Benedikt Lotter, Karan Hiremath, Arjun Jain
People’s Choice Award – $500 – GreenVote – Benedikt Lotter, Karan Hiremath, Arjun Jain
IGEL Award – Southwest Airline tickets – Reverse – John Doyle, Clara Midgley, Rob Ritchie
Conestoga Bank Award – $200 – SustainaLink – Alia Lahr, Nicole Lok, Jayant Rao
The winning presentation for PennOrb