CEAS

CEAS

UC Triumphs in “Clean” Competitions

By: Ashley Duvelius

Team Effuelent seized the $40,000 top prize of the Odebrecht Award for Sustainability Development Competition. Led by UC students Ronald Gillespie, Ethan Jacobs, and Qingshi Tu, along with advisor Mingming Lu, Team Effuelent dominated the competition with their innovative concept of “Using Trap Grease As the Raw Material for Biodiesel Feedstock Production.”

From left to right: Ethan Jacobs, Prof. Mingming Lu, Qingshi Tu, Ron Gillespie, and Claire Sweigart, UC Sustainability Coordinator.

From left to right: Ethan Jacobs, Prof. Mingming Lu, Qingshi Tu, Ron Gillespie, and Claire Sweigart, UC Sustainability Coordinator.

The University of Cincinnati student entrepreneurship team that’s fueling worldwide media attention is at it again—Team Effuelent recently took the $40,000 top prize of the Odebrecht Award for Sustainability Development Competition with their innovative concept of “Using Trap Grease As the Raw Material for Biodiesel Feedstock Production.” Team Effuelent is led by UC students Ron Gillespie, College of Business Industrial Management student; Ethan Jacobs, CEAS ACCEND student earning his BS degree in civil engineering and also his MBA; and Qingshi Tu, UC doctoral environmental engineering student. The top three winning teams of the 2013 Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development were unveiled September 9th, 2013 at the award ceremony in Miami, FL.

The team’s innovative Waste Grease Extraction process extracts substances such as fats, oils, and greases from the municipal wastewater stream and converts them into a low-cost biodiesel feedstock using processes compatible to the current biodiesel industry.

Not only does the WGE process generate a marketable product of value, it also results in lowered landfill costs for wastewater treatment plants and positively contributes to the environmental, economic, and energy sustainability of the US.

Mingming Lu, PhD and associate professor in CEAS Department of Biomedical, Chemical, and Environmental Engineering, originally developed the novel process and serves as the team’s advisor. The students were awarded $20,000, Professor Lu receives $10,000, and another $10,000 goes to the University of Cincinnati. 

Team Effuelent discovered their market by looking for alternate sources of biodiesel production. They’ve been collaborating with the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) to solidify their process.

Currently, the researchers are working towards building a prototype system for the Waste Grease Extraction process.

Qingshi Tu reflects, “This is the second year for the Odebrecht Award for Sustainability Development Competition in the US and it’s our first time attending this competition. We are deeply honored by this award and we greatly appreciate the recognition from our esteemed peers.

We believe that we can move forward with this project and alter people’s mindset from treating trap grease as a waste to taking advantage of it as a resource for energy generation.”

The Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development was created to give students a chance to show their best ideas to Odebrecht USA, Braskem America and to the world. Established in Brazil in 2008, the Odebrecht Award has expanded to Panama, Peru, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Angola, Argentina and now, the United States.

The competition is open to students nationwide. The award, which includes cash prizes totaling $65,000, invites university students to search for innovative technologies and methods to promote sustainable and responsible development. Odebrecht USA, headquartered in Florida, and Braskem America, based in Philadelphia, sponsor the U.S. competition.

To enter the competition, teams submit a 20-page paper demonstrating their idea of sustainability development. The idea needs to address the following aspects: innovation, results & impact, potential to scale up and replicate, viability, organizational capacity, value creation and sustainability.

About Odebrecht and Braskem

Founded in 1944 in Brazil, the Odebrecht Organization is today a diversified business leader that operates in more than 25 countries and employs more than 185,000 people worldwide. Odebrecht USA opened its office in 1990, and since then it has successfully delivered projects throughout the United States. Odebrecht has a particular emphasis on public-sector infrastructure projects of vital importance.

Braskem is the largest producer of thermoplastic resins in the Americas. With 36 industrial plants in Brazil, the United States and Germany, the company produces over 35 billion pounds of thermoplastic resins and other petrochemicals per year. Braskem is the world’s leading biopolymers producer with its 440 million pound green polyethylene plant that produces polyethylene from sugarcane-based ethanol.

Congratulations Team Effuelent!

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***UPDATE***

The UC Sustain-A-Watt team took 1st Place in the Facebook Viewers' Choice Award and a $1,500 check. The UC Effuelent team finished just out of the money, but generated very positive buzz.

“The Ohio Clean Energy Challenge was excellent—twelve top teams going head-to-head presenting outstanding solutions directly addressing clean energy. I was most impressed with the UC students’ preparation and presentation.  Both teams excelled on Q & A from the judges,” reflects Charles H. Matthews, PhD and Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship Education & Research, who mentored both teams and traveled with them to the competition in Columbus.

Congratulations to both Team Sustain-A-Watt and Team Effuelent on their well-deserved and hard-earned success!

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The University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio (UCEAO) and NorTech are challenging college students to create a clean energy student business plan and compete for $10,000 in the 2013 Ohio Clean Energy Challenge. UC semifinalist teams, Effuelent and Sustain-A-Watt (SAW) Energy Solutions, accept the challenge.

In a world full of ever-advancing technologies, it may be safe to say that energy technologies take precedence over all the rest. There’s an ongoing effort to shift to renewable, safe and cost-effective energy technologies. The University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio (UCEAO) and NorTech recognize this effort and have challenged college students to compete for $10,000 in their Ohio Clean Energy Challenge.

Presented by the University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio and NorTech, the 2013 Ohio Clean Energy Challenge is a clean energy student business plan competition designed to provide student entrepreneurs with the opportunity to showcase their energy technology and business plans; receive university and industry support and feedback; gain exposure within the venture capital and funding community; and compete for cash prizes to support their technology and business plan.

The competition will take place on January 28th and 29th in Columbus, Ohio, where semifinalists will present an eight minute live business pitch to a panel of judges comprised of clean energy entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders, followed by a ten minute question and answer session. The winner of the Ohio Competition will receive the $10,000 state prize and go on to compete for the $100,000 grand prize at the Midwest regional competition on April 4, 2013, in Chicago, Illinois, and a place in the National competition in Washington, D.C. The 2013 Challenge is the place to see cutting-edge technologies, learn about new ventures and entrepreneurial talent, and network with thought leaders and Ohio's top student talent.

UC has two teams that are semifinalists in the competition—Team Effuelent and Team Sustain-A-Watt (SAW) Energy Solutions. These teams will be competing against 12 other semifinalists from across the state. UC students Rod Ghavami, College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS); Andrew Nguyen, CEAS; Stephen Sargent, Carl H. Lindner College of Business (CoB); John Schroder, CoB; Jason Van Vliet, CEAS; Shenghan Wang, CoB; Yichen Xu, CoB; and Laksh Khurana, CoB, along with mentor Scott Wampler, President, CEO and Director of VDI Acquisitions, Inc., created Sustain-A-Watt. They are joined by Team Effuelent, also named one of the 12 semifinalists. Effuelent is led by students Ronald Gillespie, CoB; Ethan Jacobs, CoB; and Qingshi Tu, CEAS; with mentor Stephanie Smith of Beagle Bioproducts.

Team Sustain-A-Watt accepting their award (From Left to Right): John Schroder, Shenghan Wang, Laksh Khurana, Jason Van Vliet, Rod Ghavami, Andrew Nguyen, Jim Petro (Chancellor Ohio Board of Regents) and Stephen Sargent.

Team Sustain-A-Watt accepting their award (From Left to Right): John Schroder, Shenghan Wang, Laksh Khurana, Jason Van Vliet, Rod Ghavami, Andrew Nguyen, Jim Petro (Chancellor Ohio Board of Regents) and Stephen Sargent.

Sustain-A-Watt (SAW) Energy Solutions is a full-service home energy monitoring and management solution provider. Sustain-A-Watt’s smart energy monitoring products and services provide an easy and accurate monitoring system and allows remote control of both active and passive energy use in residential homes. Sustain-A-Watt’s flagship, PowerGenie™, revolutionizes how energy is monitored and consumed in the home, resulting in saved time, money, and energy in the home and the community.

The PowerGenie™ connects to a standard electric receptacle, precisely measuring and logging electrical energy consumption per electronic device or appliance powered by the strip. The recorded “SAW Power-Datatm” is uploaded automatically to a webpage, which is accessible to the user from an Internet-ready device, such as a smart phone, tablet or laptop, on the WattActive™ application. The WattActive™ application provides statistics, recommendations, and the capability to manually turn individual receptacles on/off and/or set a timer that performs this operation automatically, saving both active and passive power demand.

The PowerGenie™ resembles other power strips, but when paired with the team’s unique WattActive™ energy monitoring and saving application, it creates a novel way to control one’s energy usage unlike existing products that are available today. The PowerGenie™ offers more control and energy saving at a more attractive price point than the competition. It utilizes superior technology over current cumbersome Master/Slave energy controlling devices on the market. The PowerGenie™ enables a more user-friendly consumer experience and greater potential energy savings.

As it is primarily targeted towards residential homes, the PowerGenie™'s technology has the potential to save the average person up to 20% on their electric bill. It allows people to become self-conscious of where energy is being wasted in their home, and it gives them the ability to remotely monitor and control their power consumption. As the PowerGenie™ gains momentum it will appeal to small businesses, office buildings, and find itself in every niche of the market.

SAW team member and CEAS electrical engineering senior, Rod Ghavami, says, “Our team used knowledge we’ve gained over the past 4 years at CEAS to develop our preliminary design. While the PowerGenie™ is still in the prototype phase, we expect to break even after selling our initial 5,000 PowerGenie™ Units within the first 6 months of business.”

Ghavami adds, “I prepared for this competition by taking my first business class, New Venture Entrepreneurship, taught by Professor Thomas Dalziel, PhD and associate professor at CoB, and received mentorship from Professor Charles Matthews, PhD and executive director of management at CoB, on numerous Saturday mornings throughout the fall semester. CEAS prepared my teammates and I by providing us with the opportunity to use our engineering senior design project in this competition.  Professors Massoud (Max) Rabiee, PhD, and Fred Beyette, PhD,  both professors at CEAS School of Electronics and Computing Systems (SECS), advised us on our preliminary design and will continue to work with us as we complete our prototype throughout the spring semester.”

Currently, the team has applied for a patent on their preliminary designs and eagerly looks forward to networking with professionals and meeting the teams from other schools at the competition.

Team Effuelent (From Left to Right): Dr. Charles H. Matthews, Ethan Jacobs, Ron Gillespie, Qingshi Tu, and Dr. Mingming Lu.

Team Effuelent (From Left to Right): Dr. Charles H. Matthews, Ethan Jacobs, Ron Gillespie, Qingshi Tu, and Dr. Mingming Lu.

Team Effuelent uses technology developed by Professor Mingming Lu, PhD and associate professor at CEAS School of Energy, Environmental, Biological and Medical Engineering, which converts waste trap grease (consisting of fat oils and greases extracted from wastewater) into usable bio-diesel fuel. Effuelent’s patent-pending Waste Grease Extraction (WGE) process creates a biodiesel product using a problematic waste stream as a resource, lowering landfill costs for wastewater treatment plants and generating a marketable product. Effuelent’s WGE process will have a positive environmental, economic, and energy impact.

Team Effuelent discovered their market by looking for alternate sources of biodiesel production. They’ve been collaborating with the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) to solidify their process.

Ethan Jacobs, Effuelent team member and CEAS ACCEND student earning his BS degree in civil engineering and also his MBA, reports, “The biodiesel market has been growing for quite a while—it sits at about 800 million gallons for the first 10 months of 2012. More and more organizations are using biodiesel fuel because of its environmental benefits. Nonetheless, our competition is very sparse, with one company in Atlanta and one company in San Francisco. We would most likely break even after one year.”

Jacobs reflects, “As both a CEAS and CoB student, I have been able to understand and act as a major intermediary between the world of business and the technical world. Personally, I look forward to learning more about the world of entrepreneurship. Being judged by potential investors is an exciting prospect.”

Please join CEAS and CoB in wishing these teams the best of luck in their upcoming competition. It’s students such as these that prove engineering and business equal success.

To view Team Sustain-A-Watt Energy Solutions’ business video pitch, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcQoXHS6nU0.

To view Team Effuelent’s business video pitch, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQaLe8eRmx4.

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