Last semester, Ohio State Energy Partners announced the Smart Campus Challenge, the first-ever, venture capitalist-style student sustainability competition that encouraged students to pitch and sell their ideas on sustainability.
Since then, six finalists were selected, and a pitch session on Saturday determined winners of the $190,000 prize to implement their projects, along with a fully funded trip to Paris in June.
Wasted Opportunities won the overall competition with full funding of the $54,000 it requested, $250 in cash to each team member and the trip to Paris, where the team will attend ENGIE’s innovation week. ENGIE is the energy group that contributed to the establishment of OSEP on campus and provided the prize money for the Smart Campus Challenge.
Wasted Opportunities consists of team members Mike Fackler, a third-year in environment, economy, development and sustainability, as well as the team’s captain; Michael Scherping, a fourth-year in mechanical engineering; Timothy Kirby, a fourth-year in mechanical engineering; and Danny Freudiger, a graduate research associate in the Center for Automotive Research.
The team’s project is a startup that collects otherwise wasted food from dining locations and food providers to donate to underserved community members in Columbus.
“We came into this really just wanting to be funded and expand our impacts past campus and on campus really to create a better, efficient system and affect the way that we operate as a university,” Fackler said. “Paris is icing on top of the cake. It feels fantastic to win. This team has been a fantastic collaboration.”
The other five finalists received portions of the total funding, with second- and third-place winners being teams Search for Trees and Faci, respectively. Search for Trees’ members each received $500 cash for participation, while Faci’s members each received $250.
In addition, Search for Trees received $40,000 to try to implement Ecosia as the official search engine for Ohio State, which helps fund the planting of trees for every certain amount of searches made and ads clicked on the engine’s page. Faci received $10,000 for its business of taking unused coffee grounds and creating exfoliating facial and body scrubs with them.
“Faci is a company that’s rooted in sustainability,” Jessica Hook, a third-year in marketing and Faci’s team captain, said. “Essentially we want to help the university achieve [its] goal of zero waste by 2025 on the backend of coffee grounds waste.”
The other finalists included projects Surfactant Addition to East Regional Chilled Water Plant, who received $10,000 to add surfactants — substances such as detergent that reduce tension in liquids — to the water pumps on campus; Solar Bus Stop, which will receive $20,000 to provide students with an interactive experience to learn quick facts about renewable energy while waiting for the bus; and We CAN Change The World, which will receive $10,000 to put together a weeklong recycling competition for students to raise awareness and teach them how to properly recycle.
“The competition was designed not only to challenge the student teams to come up with a compelling sustainability project,” Josh Knights, director of partnerships for the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State and emcee of the pitch event, said. “It was designed to be a learning opportunity about what it takes in the real world to turn ideas into reality.”
Projects consisted of a budget plan, management plan, distribution of responsibilities among the student team members and a faculty or staff adviser.
“I think we got a sense that these teams have a lot of self-motivation, a lot of initiative and are very independent on their own,” Knights said. “But it’s always good to have that extra resource to come back to.”
The judging panel for the Smart Campus Challenge consisted of Serdar Tufekci, CEO of OSEP; Gayle Saunders, founder and managing partner of The Saunders Company; Christopher Ito, CEO of financial services company Fossil Free Indexes; Kate Bartter, director of the Office of Energy and Environment at Ohio State; Missy Ryan, fourth-year in environmental engineering; and Aimee Ulstad, clinical associate professor of industrial systems engineering.