The Smart Campus Challenge encourages teams of three to five students from any Ohio State campus to propose project ideas that support the university’s sustainability goal. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Ohio State Energy Partners has announced the Smart Campus Challenge, which encourages students to pitch and sell ideas to improve sustainability at Ohio State.

Students with thoughts on how to fix campus sustainability problems are encouraged to submit project proposals to OSEP — which is responsible for operating the systems that heat, cool and distribute power across campus — through its website. Winners will have the opportunity to get their project fully funded by ENGIE, an energy group that partnered with investment firm Axium Infrastructure in 2015 to create OSEP and positively impact the campus.

“It’s not just a resume builder,” said Ris Twigg, communication intern for ENGIE. “It’s like personal and professional development because you put into this project what you’ll get out. If you don’t put in the time and effort in planning your project, you’re not going to get out of it what you hoped to. But for those students that do go above and beyond, they’re going to see lasting impact on this campus for the next however many years.”

The Smart Campus Challenge encourages teams of three to five students from all Ohio State campuses to propose project ideas consisting of developing durable solutions to the challenges of sustainability and evolving a sustainable culture through collaborative teaching, research, outreach and practices, according to its website.

“We don’t want it to limit or stifle their creativity or thought process, but [the goals] are ways in which we want them to think about how they can create some change on campus and how they can put forth these projects,” Twigg said.

Student proposals must include a developed project plan, consisting of a budget, management plan, resumes and more when submitting to OSEP for evaluation. Teams must be led by a faculty or staff adviser.

“Our hope is that by getting the word out through some of the faculty, some of them will think, ‘This is exciting. I’m excited about this, and I got some students that might be a good fit for this,’” said Josh Knights, associate director for business development and partnerships for sustainability at Ohio State.

Project proposals can be submitted by filling out a form available on OSEP’s website by 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 7. Progress cannot be saved once starting the form and students cannot edit the proposal once it is submitted.

Finalists will be announced Dec. 14 and have the opportunity to pitch their project ideas to a panel of judges. The pitch sessions will occur Feb. 23. Each of the final teams will receive a budget of $1,000 for presentation needs.

“I think being able to get the students involved, they’re going to bring a fresh perspective,” Knights said. “They don’t have, I think, a lot of the biases … they’re not locked into certain ways of thinking that maybe folks that have been looking at this problem for a long time are.”

Winners will be provided the resources needed to execute their project, which must occur by spring 2020.

“For the first-place finalist, in addition to getting their entire project funded, they will have the opportunity to travel to Paris, France, fully paid for by ENGIE, for ENGIE’s annual innovation trophy week,” Twigg said.

An Instagram Live Q&A session about the challenge will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 14 on Buck-i-Energy’s Instagram at @buckeyeenergy.