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$50,000 awarded in student sustainability competition

April 18, 2012

Four student teams won a combined $50,000 in the Global Stewards Sustainability Prize innovation competition hosted by the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Global Stewards Sustainability Prize coordinator
Chris Meyer, the C-Machine team and John Noreika
of the Global Stewards Society, from left to right.

The awards – three grand prizes of $15,000 each and a $5,000 Healthy Places Prize – were announced April 16 at the sixth annual Nelson Institute Earth Day Conference at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison.

Capturing the grand prize awards were:

  • Micah Erickson and Justin Reed for C-Machine, their concept for a recyclable electric motor that provides a more sustainable and efficient method of generating electric power.
  • Jack Boland and Josh Gilberts for PureWater Trike, which converts a recycled bicycle into a tricycle with an attached, pedal-powered water filtration and storage unit to provide clean water in developing countries.
  • Aleia McCord and Sarah Stefanos for Waste 2 Energy, their proposal to divert municipal waste from Uganda landfills, convert it into renewable, clean-burning fuel, and use the byproducts as organic fertilizer.

“These are all ambitious projects that provide innovative solutions to real-world environmental challenges,” said Carol Barford, interim director of the Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment.

PureWater Trike

Waste 2 Energy
The PureWater Trike team (top) and Aleia McCord
of Waste 2 Energy (bottom) with Meyer and Noreika.

“We congratulate these enterprising students and look forward to seeing their ideas implemented to reduce the environmental impact of human activities.”

In addition to the award money, the grand prize winners receive an option for a free one-year lease in the University Research Park Metro Innovation Center on Madison’s East Side and other incentives to further develop their ideas.

An inaugural Healthy Places Prize, sponsored by the UW-Madison Global Health Institute and the Office of Sustainability, was also awarded to the strongest proposal connecting environment and human health.

Chosen by popular vote among Earth Day conference attendees, the prize went to Dadit Hidayat, Sushil Dinesh, Jeremiah Donohue and Mohamad Danijarsa for Weego, an online carpooling and ridesharing resource.

These teams and four other Global Stewards Sustainability Prize projects qualified as exhibiting finalists, winning $2,000 each. The other finalist projects were:

  • Madison Canopy Project, submitted by Evan Slocum and Huan Gu, to identify locations of current and potential urban forest canopy in Madison and raise awareness of their benefits.
  • Manu Print, a concept by Eric Ronning for a low-cost prosthetic hand that uses affordable, renewable plastics.
  • Community Irrigation, a proposal by Claire Davis, Phil Thomas, Tamara Sinensky and Seth Berger for small-scale irrigation and community development to increase crop yield and income in southwestern Kenya.
  • WInstruments, an idea for a manufacturer of personal weather and air pollution stations that tie into social networks, proposed by Alex Kubicek, Bryan Dow, Elise Garms and Kendra Hill.

The competition, now in its fourth year, is open to all UW-Madison undergraduate and graduate students. Previously known as the Climate Leadership Challenge, it was renamed the Global Stewards Sustainability Prize in 2012 to reflect a broader focus on real-world solutions for environmental sustainability.

Global Health Institute director Jonathan Patz (left)
and Sabrina Bradshaw of the Office of Sustainability
(right) with Healthy Places Prize winner Weego.

Organizers believe the competition, with more than $250,000 in prize money awarded to date, is among the most lucrative college or university competitions of its kind.

Since the competition’s inception in 2009, winners have gone on to patent their concepts, launch businesses and see their ideas implemented across the region and world.

The competition was judged by an interdisciplinary panel of academic, business and nonprofit leaders. It is supported through a generous grant from the Global Stewards Society, which includes John F. and Mary Cooper; Gary and Ellora Cooper; Christine Cooper; John and Mary K. Noreika; Peter Vogel, Vogel Brothers Building Company; David Beck-Engel, J.H. Findorff & Son; and Scott J. Reppert, Superior Health Linens. The UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations, Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery and Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation also provide support.