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March 29, 2011 - 8:12pm

Four 'U' teams win Clean Energy Prize


The second annual Clean Energy Prize, a competition in which students develop plans to bring clean technology into the marketplace, was awarded on Friday afternoon to four teams of University graduate students at the Ross School of Business.

Student team Enertia — composed of Engineering graduate students Tzeno Galchev and Ethem Aktakka and Rackham graduate student Adam Carver — won the $50,000 first place cash prize for their proposal about how to use ambient kinetic energy to improve the efficiency of wireless electronic devices.

After being announced as the winner, Carver couldn’t contain his enthusiasm and equated his team’s achievement to winning the Super Bowl.

“I’m excited, honestly, beyond words,” Carver said. “I feel like I just won the Super Bowl, and I’m also very nervous because I’m not Tom Brady, and I’m not used to winning a game and having eight people come up to me and put microphones in my face and have me explain how I’m feeling, but it’s extremely satisfying.”

Teams Advanced Battery Control, Green Silane and ReGenerate won cash prizes of $25,000, $10,000 and $7,000, respectively.

The Clean Energy Prize is a joint venture between DTE Energy, the University of Michigan and the Ross Energy Club — an MBA student-run organization.

Students from colleges around Michigan — including Michigan State University, Wayne State University and Oakland University — participated in the second annual competition. Last year, the competition was only open to University students.

Dennis Assanis, director of the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute, said that expanding the competitor pool to students at multiple universities played a role in bringing the Clean Energy Prize back this year.

“We really believe that A — this could make the event much more competitive and B — we’ll have many more ideas,” Assanis said. “We were trying to … rejuvenate our economy, so we’re going to rely on everybody’s help, from the young talent, the young minds coming from the entire state — not just from the University of Michigan.”

The competition started last December, when 32 teams gave a three-minute pitch and took questions from judges at the Ross School of Business. In January, 15 teams moved onto the next round, where they had to give a second presentation on the market potential of their proposals and undergo another question session with judges.

Friday’s competition featured the eight student teams who had advanced from the prior round. Throughout the day, the teams had to present their completed proposals and hold an extended discussion with the judges to determine the final winners.

Throughout the awards ceremony, speakers discussed the effects of the current recession on Michigan and the potential of clean energy to offset economic problems.

In his keynote address, Gerry Anderson, president and COO of DTE Energy, talked about Michigan’s negative image among potential student job seekers and said that the emergence of clean energy could improve how the state is perceived.

“I think it’s a realistic hope that Michigan could be one of the places in the world that has thought leadership and production leadership around this advanced (technology),” Anderson said.

Assanis expressed a similar sentiment towards students having to look elsewhere to find jobs. He said he hoped the environment that the competition fostered would help to keep the state’s “intellectual capital” within Michigan.

“In their efforts, these guys engage many more who are not really the formal members of the teams always, but mentors, other fellow students, roommates — so really, they’re starting to generate what I would call critical mass that essentially would yield an entrepreneurial community, which is exactly the kind of thing that we are liking here in Ann Arbor.” Assanis said.

While team Enertia is ecstatic about its victory, Carver said the team members look forward to competing in the business market.

“This was really just the gateway, this was the judgment and we passed through this test.” Carver said. “And now, we’d like to use this momentum to go on and hopefully expand our business and invest in the product."