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UC Expects to "Clean" the Competition in Energy Contest with a $10,000 Prize

The University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio (UCEAO) and NorTech are challenging college students to create a clean energy student business plan and compete for $10,000 in the 2013 Ohio Clean Energy Challenge. UC semifinalist teams, Effluent and Sustain-A-Watt (SAW) Energy Solutions, accept the challenge.

Date: 1/28/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: Arthur Davies
Phone: (513) 556-9181
Photos By: UC Photographic Services

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Baldwin Hall
Baldwin Hall

In a world full of ever-advancing technologies, it may be safe to say that energy technologies take precedence over all the rest. There’s an ongoing effort to shift to renewable, safe and cost-effective energy technologies. The University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio (UCEAO) and NorTech recognize this effort and have challenged college students to compete for $10,000 in their Ohio Clean Energy Challenge.
Presented by the University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio and NorTech, the 2013 Ohio Clean Energy Challenge is a clean energy student business plan competition designed to provide student entrepreneurs with the opportunity to showcase their energy technology and business plans; receive university and industry support and feedback; gain exposure within the venture capital and funding community; and compete for cash prizes to support their technology and business plan.
The competition will take place on Jan. 28-29 in Columbus, Ohio, where semifinalists will present an eight-minute live business pitch to a panel of judges comprised of clean energy entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders, followed by a ten minute question and answer session. The winner of the Ohio Competition will receive the $10,000 state prize and go on to compete for the $100,000 grand prize at the Midwest regional competition on April 4, 2013, in Chicago, Ill., and a place in the national competition in Washington, D.C. The 2013 Challenge is the place to see cutting-edge technologies, learn about new ventures and entrepreneurial talent, and network with thought leaders and Ohio's top student talent.
The University of Cincinnati has two teams that are semifinalists in the competition—Team Effluent and Team Sustain-A-Watt (SAW) Energy Solutions. These teams will be competing against 12 other semifinalists from across the state. UC students Rod Ghavami, College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS); Andrew Nguyen, CEAS; Stephen Sargent, Carl H. Lindner College of Business (CoB); John Schroder, CoB; Jason Van Vliet, CEAS; Shenghan Wang, CoB; Yichen Xu, CoB; Laksh Khurana, CoB; and Pragathi Kothavenkata, CEAS, along with mentor Stephanie Smith of Beagle Bioproducts, created Sustain-A-Watt. They are joined by Team Effuelent, also named one of the 12 semifinalists. Effuelent is led by students Ronald Gillespie, CoB; Ethan Jacobs, CoB; and Qingshi Tu, CEAS; with mentor Scott Wampler, president, CEO and director of VDI Acquisitions, Inc.
Sustain-A-Watt (SAW) Energy Solutions is a full-service home energy monitoring and management solution provider. Sustain-A-Watt’s smart energy monitoring products and services provide an easy and accurate monitoring system and allows remote control of both active and passive energy use in residential homes. Sustain-A-Watt’s flagship, PowerGenie™, revolutionizes how energy is monitored and consumed in the home, resulting in saved time, money, and energy in the home and the community.
The PowerGenie™ connects to a standard electric receptacle, precisely measuring and logging electrical energy consumption per electronic device or appliance powered by the strip. The recorded “SAW Power-Datatm” is uploaded automatically to a webpage, which is accessible to the user from an Internet-ready device, such as a smart phone, tablet or laptop, on the WattActive™ application. The WattActive™ application provides statistics, recommendations, and the capability to manually turn individual receptacles on/off and/or set a timer that performs this operation automatically, saving both active and passive power demand.
The PowerGenie™ resembles other power strips, but when paired with the team’s unique WattActive™ energy monitoring and saving application, it creates a novel way to control one’s energy usage unlike existing products that are available today. The PowerGenie™ offers more control and energy saving at a more attractive price point than the competition. It utilizes superior technology over current cumbersome Master/Slave energy controlling devices on the market. The PowerGenie™ enables a more user-friendly consumer experience and greater potential energy savings.
Baldwin Hall
Baldwin Hall

As it is primarily targeted towards residential homes, the PowerGenie™'s technology has the potential to save the average person up to 20% on their electric bill. It allows people to become self-conscious of where energy is being wasted in their home, and it gives them the ability to remotely monitor and control their power consumption. As the PowerGenie™ gains momentum it will appeal to small businesses, office buildings, and find itself in every niche of the market.
SAW team member and CEAS electrical engineering senior, Rod Ghavami, says, “Our team used knowledge we’ve gained over the past 4 years at CEAS to develop our preliminary design. While the PowerGenie™ is still in the prototype phase, we expect to break even after selling our initial 2,500 PowerGenie™ Units within the first 6 months of business.”
Ghavami adds, “I prepared for this competition by taking my first business class, New Venture Entrepreneurship, taught by Thomas Dalziel, associate professor at CoB, and received mentorship from Charles Matthews, executive director of management at CoB, on numerous Saturday mornings throughout the fall semester. CEAS prepared my teammates and I by providing us with the opportunity to use our engineering senior design project in this competition. Massoud (Max) Rabiee, and Fred Beyette, both professors at CEAS School of Electronics and Computing Systems (SECS), advised us on our preliminary design and will continue to work with us as we complete our prototype throughout the spring semester.”
Currently, the team has applied for a patent on their preliminary designs and eagerly looks forward to networking with professionals and meeting the teams from other schools at the competition.
Team Effluent uses technology developed by Mingming Lu, associate professor at CEAS School of Energy, Environmental, Biological and Medical Engineering, which converts waste trap grease (consisting of fat oils and greases extracted from wastewater) into usable bio-diesel fuel. Effluent's patent-pending Waste Grease Extraction (WGE) process creates a biodiesel product using a problematic waste stream as a resource, lowering landfill costs for wastewater treatment plants and generating a marketable product. Effuelent’s WGE process will have a positive environmental, economic, and energy impact.
Team Effluent discovered their market by looking for alternate sources of biodiesel production. They’ve been collaborating with the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati (MSD) to solidify their process.
Ethan Jacobs, Effluent team member and CEAS ACCEND student earning his BS degree in civil engineering and also his MBA, reports, “The biodiesel market has been growing for quite a while—it sits at about 800 million gallons for the first 10 months of 2012. More and more organizations are using biodiesel fuel because of its environmental benefits. Nonetheless, our competition is very sparse, with one company in Atlanta and one company in San Francisco. We would most likely break even after one year.”
Jacobs reflects, “As both a CEAS and CoB student, I have been able to understand and act as a major intermediary between the world of business and the technical world. Personally, I look forward to learning more about the world of entrepreneurship. Being judged by potential investors is an exciting prospect.”
Please join CEAS and CoB in wishing these teams the best of luck in their upcoming competition. It’s students such as these that prove engineering and business equal success.