Center Experts Help Lock in Sustainability Innovation

Winning teams at the Extreme Lock-In at the U of I.Twice a year a group of U of I students lock themselves away for 24 hours. They don’t come out until they have made the world a better place.

For this spring semester the “Extreme Entrepreneurial Lock-In” challenge theme or focus was “Sustainability in the Home”.  This event is part of the university’s Innovation Living-Learning Community (LLC) which gives students another stage to test their ideas for starting a business.

PHOTO: Winning teams at the Extreme Lock-In at the U of I.

 “Many of (the students) want to invent the next great thing and/or start their own business someday,” said Jennifer Marie Bechtel, program director for the LLC. ”They present their ideas to a panel of judges who give them feedback that will help them continue to develop their ideas if they choose to. The judges also choose a winning team, which is immortalized on a perpetual plaque in the Innovation Garage” (the LLC work space).

The winners were Mia Kaim, a senior psychology major from Elk Grove Village, Elyse Dillon, a senior community health major, and teammates Bill Shi and Utkarsh Jha . Along with two other teammates, they dreamed up a business called Aqua Ally to produce an adjustable temperature water heater to conserve energy and water and save people money on their utilities. The idea is similar to a programmable thermostat. When you shower or wash your whites, you need really hot water. The rest of the time warm water might do.

ISTC mentors on sustainability issuesDonald Trump was not there but Joy Scrogum, an emerging technologies resource specialist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, was a judge. The Center’s Technical Assistance Engineer Bart Bartels and Sustainability Researcher Shantanu Pai also served as mentors, helping teams negotiate the science behind their ideas.
"It was a great opportunity to work with students and share perspectives regarding their initial concepts,” said Bartels, who manages ISTC’s Illinois Green Office Challenge. “It was a pleasure to hear all the fresh ideas and then work with the teams to critically analyze the possibilities for implementation."

“This was a chance to introduce sustainability concepts and goals into the innovation process for these young entrepreneurs,” said Scrogum. “All of the students were very enthusiastic, and some have already expressed their intent to continue developing the ideas they formulated during the Lock-In.”

First place teamAbout 200 students are in the Innovation LLC and another 120 selected a learning community devoted to Sustainability, Bechtel said. Some of the Sustainability LLC members participated in the Lock -In along with the students in the Innovation LLC, she added.

Second place teamPHOTO LEFT: (L to R) The winners were Bill Shi, Mia Kaim, Utkarsh Jha, and Elyse Dillon.

PHOTO RIGHT: (L to R) The second place team Abhyuday Sooriyeh, Sohinee Oswal, Ying Chen, and Ambika Dubey.