Cougars compete in MIT challenge
Four UH engineering students are competing in the semi-finals of the MIT Clean Energy Prize, established in 2008, and this is the first time a team from UH has been involved in the competition.
The competition helps students develop energy entrepreneurship skills and awards the winning team with a $200,000 grand prize.
“The competition, more or less, teaches you how to get your product to market,” said UH mechanical engineering student and competitor Eduardo Jasso.
The UH team, named Envir Energy, is also the only one made up of undergraduates.
“We initially saw the purpose of the competition for us as undergraduates, a way to network jobs,” team member Mario Laposse said.
All teams are required to enter into one of three categories — Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Deployment & Infrastructure — in which the winner receives $20,000. The UH the engineering students choose to compete in Deployment & Infrastructure.
The competition requires all semi-finalists to become incorporated and publicly traded by April 29 — when the competition is to be judged — to be eligible for the grand prize.
The team was originally comprised of eight members: two MBA students and six mechanical engineering students; however, over time, the team dwindled to its current size.
“We had been developing a business plan since August, and we conducted a feasibility analysis with all of our ideas, and this had the most potential for us to do well in the competition.” Laposse said.
The group came up with six different ideas for the competition, but choose to focus it’s efforts on carbon sequestration.
“Burning natural gas to generate electricity, we are looking at capturing the CO2 and storing it underground,” Jasso said.
Having secured a spot in the semi-finals, Envir Energy will be matched with three mentors, each mentor coming from a different background: legal, entrepreneurship and engineering. All three mentors have extensive experience with carbon sequestration.
“We are focusing on natural gas plants,” said UH team member Andres Paez.
“Natural gas generation is cheaper right now, and forecasted to stay cheaper. We tailored our carbon capture system for that.”
The four students are in the process of starting their own clean energy competition in the mold of MIT’s called Clean Energy Initiative
“We saw the need for students to get real life experience, unless you get an internship,” Jasso said.