Ener-Challenge supports sustainable energy transition

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Inspired to help accelerate the global sustainable energy transition, chemical engineering student Monika Mikhail started a new Student Energy chapter within the University of Waterloo Energy Network (UWEN). When the chapter hosted its first Ener-Challenge on March 6th, five teams of UWaterloo students learned to identify barriers to clean and sustainable energy access and use the iterative design process to formulate effective solutions.  

During this 12-hour competition, participants tackled a problem case that was based on one of the Engineering Deans Canada’s Canadian Engineering Grand Challenges: Access to Affordable, Reliable and Sustainable Energy. Each group was assigned a Canadian community and then challenged to define its specific energy-related problem and propose a sustainable energy system that addressed its energy requirements. Solutions needed to consider the community’s unique opportunities and constraints, including weather patterns and usage demands.

After conducting research and consulting with faculty members to formulate their problem and solution, the teams delivered pre-recorded videos and written proposals to a panel of judges. Their work was assessed on the clarity of their problem definition, the feasibility of their design solution, creativity, ambition and the quality of their video presentation and supplementary proposal.

The winning team, Kinjal Patel (3B, Environment and Business), Kimberly Kwan Ting Wong (4A Geography and Environmental Management) and Madeline Sain (1B, Chemical Engineering), proposed microgrids to extend solar energy capabilities, geothermal energy to capitalize on overflowed retired mining tunnels and a united coalition of the affected communities to address the need for energy reliability in Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories.

Student Energy: Empowering energy leaders

Mikhail and Aidan O’Gorman are co-presidents of the University of Waterloo Energy Network (UWEN) and UW’s Student Energy chapter, a student club that aims to educate, inspire and unite students with an interest in the constantly evolving energy industry. They are pleased with the turnout at the Ener-Challenge, excited about the ideas that were generated and enthusiastic about the potential for future events.

In addition to exciting competitions, like Ener-Challenge, members have access to engaging educational seminars, known as Ener-Chats, and opportunities to network with industry professionals. The student-run chapter also encourages members to develop their organizational and leadership skills. Special thanks to Daniel Fonseca Cerrato (1B, Chemical Engineering), Yonael Debebe (3A, Systems Design Engineering) and Aidan O’Gorman (4B, Chemical Engineering) for helping organizing the chapter’s first Ener-Challenge.

Waterloo’s Student Energy chapter is looking for new members to participate in executive and nonexecutive roles and support its ongoing clean energy initiatives and activities in the spring term.

“Aidan and I encourage our chemical engineering classmates and, indeed, all undergraduate and graduate students at UWaterloo to get involved in this exciting and important club. You’ll build the knowledge, skills and networks you need to take action on energy and sustainability challenges. Besides meeting interesting people who share your desire for a sustainable future, you’ll increase your knowledge of clean energy solutions and how we can work across disciplines to put them into practice,” said Mikhail.

Monika Mikhail“I realized my passion for clean energy as I started my fourth-year design project, which involves modelling biogas digesters to meet the energy demands of a small community in a developing nation,” said chemical engineering student Monika Mikhail, co-president of the Student Energy chapter.

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