Campus sustainability aided by funding, student competition

By: Cassidy Colarik – Staff Writer

Last fall, the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN) awarded the university a $1.3 million, three-year grant, with a portion of the money to be administered to the first KEEN Big Green Challenge.

According to KEEN’s website, the network is a group of universities that have joined together to inspire engineering and technology students to become more focused on entrepreneurial opportunities.

The KEEN Big Green Challenge took place Feb. 22, according to KEEN’s website. It included 20 teams who competed for $3,000 in scholarships. The contest called for student teams of two to five people with at least one non-engineering major to create pitches for a sustainability initiative on campus, employing KEEN’s three C’s; curiosity, connection and creating value.

Curiosity called for students to develop a way UD could become a greener campus and to examine sustainability trends. Connection called for students to come up with conceptual ideas that would advance sustainability. Creating value called for students to consider how their idea would help the UD community as a whole.

By using these three C’s as a guideline, students were challenged to look at things from a wider perspective, which facilitated feasible ideas that could impact the university’s sustainability movement in the future. The panel of judges for the Big Green Challenge included representation from five industry partners and seven departments at UD, allow the experts to familiarize contestants with KEEN methodology.  The contest winners were announced Feb. 28 at the e-week social.

“The KEEN contest chose sustainability as their focus due to the generous Hanley Institute donation this past fall,” KEEN Program Coordinator Heather Juhascik said. “Since this donation occurred, there has been a big push on campus for sustainability in general, so contest directors thought that it would be smart to piggyback on that and continue the movement, knowing that students are already engaged in the sustainability mindset.”

First-place winners were team procrastOnators, sister and brother duo, exercise science graduate student Candida Crasto and first-year chemical engineering major Cameron Crasto. Each was awarded a $750 scholarship as a contest prize. Their idea was to use kinetic energy tiles to power campus buildings,  an idea inspired by dance clubs in Europe, which have sustainable dance floors that use the movement of people as a source of energy.

“The kinetic energy tile is basically harvesting the energy that is produced from a vibration in a floor tile, which then goes through a generator and produces a certain amount of electricity that can be stored and used at a later time,” Candida Crasto said.

“Our goal is to use kinetic tiles on walkways in the middle of campus between KU and Marycrest,” Cameron Crasto said. “We hope that it could be used on the RecPlex basketball courts or the RecPlex entrance, just places where everyone steps a lot.”

The duo believes the idea not only promotes sustainability but also health and wellness.

“From the health and science perspective, everybody is counting steps, calories and trying to get active, so it’s one of those things that combines both engineering and energy saving with also just the idea of taking more steps,” Candida Crasto said. “The tiles light up when you step on them, which indicates that you’re contributing to cleaner energy and that awareness would allow you to kind of track your steps in a different way.”

The second place team, Fit Flyers, consisted of students Nicole Erlich, Mariana Lopes, Ahmad Maarafi, Daniel Smith and Molly Remenowsky. They proposed a “Green Zone” at the RecPlex.

Each second-place team member received $200 in scholarship. Two teams tied for third place: Army Green for KEEN and Greengineers.  Army Green for Keen, which came up with the idea for vending machines at ArtStreet, consisted of members Jeff Gorski and Will Randerson. Team Greengineers invented an app called called Flyer Footprint. Team Greengineers consisted of members Tyler Bagdasarian, Aleksander Grocic, Julia Hauser and Jose Panameno. Each third-place team member received $100 in scholarship.

“There are ways to help recycle, put money back in student’s pockets and exemplify one of UD’s main pillars: to serve the community,” Randerson, a member of Army Green for Keen, wrote in an opinion article for Flyer News in February. “In my local town there is a reverse vending machine in which you put your empty aluminum cans and receive money or choose to donate it to a local food pantry.  With a university that is so committed to being a leader in sustainability, we have no excuse not to do something about one of the easiest and most valuable items to recycle.”

Members of these teams have created ways for UD’s campus to become more sustainable, and more will be done in the future to keep this campaign moving forward.