2017 REI Energy Contest Winners

2017 Energy Contest


The Rutgers Energy Institute annually challenges Rutgers undergraduates to develop implementable plans for reducing energy consumption on campus. The three winning entries were awarded prizes at the 2017 REI Annual Symposium on May 3rd

(Left to Right: Timothy Lee, Tara Viray, Syed Hyder, Mackenzie George)


1st Place for $2,500:  Power Stripping and Reducing Rutgers’ Energy Consumption

Syed Hyder and Tara Viray

Hyder  Major:  Mechanical Engineering  Minor:  Economics

Viray Major: Public Health  Minor:  Biochemistry

Abstract:  Our team plans to implement smart power strips into all the on-campus residence halls before the start of the upcoming 2017-2018 academic year. These smart power strips prevent standby power consumption - which is the electricity a device consumes when it is “off”, but still plugged in. At approximately $10 per power strip, they can save around 5,000,000 kilowatt-hours and $540,000 per year. These power strips will change how the average student consumes electricity, and is a simple yet efficient way to save energy, money, and the environment.


2nd Place for $1,500: Trash to Cash

Mackenzie George

Major: Environmental Policy Institutions and Behavior

Abstract: The proposal is a game that would incentivize recycling in on-campus dorms and apartments. The proposed game involves the use of an app on students’ phones that would keep track of the amount they recycle, and would compare their stats to other students in their same building. At the end of every two-week period, top leaders would receive a monetary prize, and the game would reset at the beginning of the next two-week period. The goal of the game is to increase the amount recycled per student at the university, which would increase energy savings as a result. When recyclables are used to create products, the amount of energy necessary is significantly less as compared to using raw resources. Other benefits of the implementation of this game include an improved public image in terms of Rutgers’ environmental awareness as well as decreased pollution and green house gas emissions. Overall, the game helps work towards Rutgers’ goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 in a way that makes recycling more fun and appealing to students living on-campus.


3rd Place for $1,000:

Timothy Lee

Major: Chemistry

Abstract:  Using a systematic approach to modeling the current bus transportation system, a streamlined and more efficient bus transportation network is proposed to decrease the size of the Rutgers transportation fleet from ~50 biodiesel buses to ~40 electric buses. The environmental and financial impact of the transition from biodiesel buses to electric buses is also analyzed and presented in this proposal. Over a 12-year period, switching from the current biodiesel fleet to an all-electric bus fleet can prevent 23,640 metric tons of CO2 gas emissions and save $12.4 million.


2016 REI Energy Contest Winners

Contest winners (L -R): Ian Montgomery, Ian Stewart, Timothy Lee, Michaela Jurr

The Rutgers Energy Institute annually challenges Rutgers undergraduates to develop implementable plans for reducing energy consumption on campus. The three winning entries were awarded prizes at the 2016 REI Annual Symposium on May 4th

(Left to Right:  Ian Montgomery, Ian Stewart, Timothy Lee, and Michaela Murr)


1st Place for $2,500:  A Model-Based Approach to Optimizing Rutgers Transportation Efficiency

Timothy Lee and Michaela Murr

Lee Major: Chemistry

Murr Major: Mathematics Minor: Economics and Computer Science

Abstract:  A model of the current bus transportation system was created and analyzed to propose a more efficient model system. This proposed model can decrease travel times between campus centers by 23.5-66.6% and increase the maximum number of students transported between campuses by 16.1% while using six fewer buses. Reallocating these projected savings to a bike-share program can encourage eco-friendly practices and offer alternative and convenient means of travel for Rutgers students. Over a ten-year period, we expect to save over $740,000 and prevent over 190,000 kilograms of greenhouse-gas emissions. 


2nd Place for $1,500: Submetering Rutgers Housing and Nudging Positive Behavior

Ian Montgomery

Major: Environmental Policy Institutions and Behavior

Abstract: A coalition of student and faculty members will be formed to bring awareness to energy reduction methods. Competitions with rewards between residence halls, apartments, and campuses can bring additional motivation for energy reduction to people who do not currently pay for electricity. This requires data that is currently unknown but can be solved through an installation of more extensive submetering of buildings and analysis software and will provide a fast return on investment through cost savings. 


3rd Place for $1,000: Integration of Solar Thermal Energy at Rutgers University

Ian Stewart

Major: Physics Minor: Biological Sciences & Mathematics

Abstract:  Installation of solar water heaters on the flat top roofs of residence halls on College Avenue and Cook-Douglass campuses represents an efficient means of lowering the university’s energy consumption from the grid and its effective carbon footprint. With an estimated total cost of $1,102,104 for hardware, permitting, inspection, and installation of these systems on nine dormitories and three laboratories at Rutgers, the systems could potential save $742,894 per year on hot water when displacing electrical water heaters or $62,160 per year when displacing natural gas. The total energy savings of the installed systems is estimated at 208,620 Therms or 6,108,000 kWh annually. This is equivalent to a reduction of approximately 1,106 metric tons of CO2 according to figures from the EPA [12]. Furthermore, implementation of solar water heaters at Rutgers University could raise public awareness of solar thermal systems as efficient renewable energy sources both domestically and commercially. 

 Sym all small

2015 REI Energy Contest Winners


The Rutgers Energy Institute annually challenges Rutgers undergraduates to develop implementable plans for reducing energy consumption on campus. The three winning entries were awarded prizes at the 2015 REI Annual Symposium on May 5th

View Presentation Video by REI Associate Director Kevin Lyons

1st Place Tie for $1,750: A Proposal For a Inductively Charged Wireless Electric Bus System

Lazer Gerlikhman

Major: Biotechnology Minor: Biochemistry  Abstract: One of the most pressing issues of today is that of Global Warming. Greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of devastating floods, hurricanes, droughts, and other freak weather events across the world. Scientists predict that unless a drastic change is made to our fossil fuel consumption, we will cause irreversible
change to our atmosphere that could cause "dust-bowl like" conditions across the world. In order to prevent this problem, a wireless inductively charging bus system can be implemented at Rutgers, saving an estimated 1.5 million dollars a year in gasoline cost and reducing Co2 emissions by 40,000 tons.


1st Place Tie for $1,750: SkyTran at Rutgers

Ariel Schwalb

Major:Environmental Policy, Institutions, and Behavior Minor:Agroecology Abstract:  This proposal is to help Rutgers find a way to reduce its transportation fuel use and costs on campus. The bus system will soon become outdated as new technologies, including the one I am suggesting here, arise. Our bus system is very energy intensive, pollutes the air, costs the university millions of dollars every year, and exacerbates traffic in the city. It is also an inconvenience for students. Bus travel is time consuming and socially uncomfortable. I propose we build a SkyTran demonstration project on campus to try a new technology that might alleviate all of these problems and lead us into the future. SkyTran is a NASA patented personal rapid transportation system that has the potential to save us millions of dollars, dramatically reduce our carbon footprint, save students time, and make the Rutgers experience overall more positive.


2nd Place for $1,500: RUPOOL: A Social-Carpooling Application for Rutgers Students

Katarina Piasevoli

Major: Environmental Policy Institutions and Behavior Minor:Spanish Abstract:  Because more than half of America’s CO2 emissions come from vehicles, encouraging students to carpool can target this direct source of pollution and encourage continued positive behavior. Decreasing vehicle emissions, traffic congestion and addressing transportation inefficiency, a university wide car-pooling initiative would positively serve the Rutgers student body. By reducing the number of cars, carpooling or sharing rides with multiple passengers would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve energy. In addition, local traffic may be reduced by the eliminated of some cars from the road. By sharing rides with fellow students, participants can also save money. In addition, carpooling gives students opportunity to meet new friends. By participating, students use a carpooling application called RUpool to support a communal effort to commute sustainably and incorporate environmental practices into their everyday lives.



3rd Place for $1,000: A Multi-Faceted Approach to Minimize Waste from Rutgers Dining Services

Joe Woo, Matthew Lu, Moiz Rauf

Major(s) Materials Science & Engineering (all) Abstract:  Food-related waste is a massive problem in the United States, accounting for $40 billion lost from commercial service operations alone. Additionally, environmental implications extend far upstream and downstream as well. Despite recent initiatives to reduce student produced food waste, Rutgers dining services is still a major contributor to this problem. This proposal therefore takes a multi-pronged waste reduction approach to minimize Rutgers' dining services footprint in this area. In part I, it is shown that installing preconsumer food waste tracking technology in kitchens can result in over 438,000 pounds of food saved each year. This corresponds to $333,216 in savings, or 3.74 million kilowatt-hours and 5.1 million pounds of CO2 reduced. In part II, it is shown that a small change in take-out packaging practices can produce a substantial change in the environment to save 350,000 pounds of CO2 emissions and 80,000 kilowatt-hours of energy. For a mere $230, a combined 3.6 million units of Rutgers’ styrofoam cups and containers and plastic bags is saved from landfills each year. In total, the two parts together combine for a total annual savings of $332,986, 5.45 million pounds of CO2 emissions, and 3.82 million kilowatt-hours of energy.



2014 REI Energy Contest Winners

2014 REI Energy Contest Winners1st Place for $2,500: Underground Thermal Energy Storage for a Sustainable Future

Joe Woo, Matthew Lu, Moiz Rauf

Major(s) Materials Science & Engineering (all). Abstract: One major opportunity for energy innovation is presented in President Robert Barchi's recently approved Strategic Plan, which calls for the construction of six new academic buildings and three new residential buildings totaling over 1.3 million ft2 in the next decade. It is of pivotal importance that they are designed with energy conservation in mind, which allows for a promising proposal utilizing Borehole Thermal Energy Storage (BTES) technology. BTES systems involve storing thermal energy several hundred feet underground, to provide heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. Using a similar case study at The Richard Stockton College in New Jersey, the authors of this proposal estimate that this solution can generate upwards of $1.44 million and reduce carbon emissions by over 15.1 million pounds annually, which is the equivalent of taking 2,000 cars off the road each year. With an estimated payback time of only 8 years, BTES can be financed in a very short period of time relative to the lifespan of the buildings. Funding the initial investment would not be an issue given that Rutgers is already spending over $250 million to finance the construction of the buildings, in addition to the $750 million Building Our Future Bond Act. The university would only need to raise an additional 4.5% in funds, which can be easily achieved through a combination of borrowing, utilities rebates, grants, or existing funds.



2nd Place for $1,500: Rooftop Gardens

Rachel Alm

Major: Environmental Policy, Institutions and Behavior, and History. Abstract: The proposal focuses on the idea of green roofing on campus buildings that are viable as rooftop gardens as well. The main premise of the proposal is to implement a rooftop garden atop Brower Commons that will extend to other University buildings upon the completion of the trial run. The focus will be on the promotion of energy efficiency through the use of green roof and the promotion of localized farming to decrease the number of miles students and community members travel in order to purchase localized food. The project will further promote green activities and includes calculations of various green roofing systems and studies of rooftop gardens in order to get a better understanding of the viability of the project.



3rd Place for $1,000: Energy Recycling

Rachit Mehta and Timothy Yong

Mehta Major(s): Materials Science and Engineering Minor(s): Economics Yong Major(s): Computer Engineering & Computer Science. Abstract: Our proposal is to harvest energy from three basic forms of energy: thermal, light, and kinetic. We plan to harvest this energy through devices developed that can convert these three forms of energy to electrical energy (which we call ‘energy recycling’). We also plan on using autonomous feedback to have users monitor their own electronic energy consumption. The goal of this proposal is to reach self-sufficiency in energy costs where Rutgers University can save more than half of their current energy costs and generate enough to become optimal. The proposal remarks the costs to benefits analysis where the benefits outweigh the costs as well extra energy left for storage. In addition, there is a social impact analysis of what the potential social benefits are. The proposal is comprised of a comprehensive twelve-step strategic plan to implement the proposal which will take place in three stages.

2013 REI Energy Contest Winners

The Rutgers Energy Institute annually challenges Rutgers undergraduates to develop implementable plans for reducing energy consumption on campus. The three winning entries were awarded prizes at the 2013 REI Annual Symposium on May 7th.

The REI gratefully acknowledges sponsorship of the Energy Contest by Sapphire Energy Inc.



2013 REI Energy Contest Winners1st Place for $2,500: Reducing Utility Consumption via Incentives (RUCVI)

Joe Woo, Matthew Lu, Moiz Rauf

Major(s) Materials Science & Engineering (all). Abstract: Proposal for the implementation of a novel incentivisation program which, in close collaboration with the Residence Hall Association, can serve to reduce utility consumption to the greatest extent possible. Step 1: Measure average electricity, heating, and water usage per residence hall; set a realistic target for reduction of energy expenditure (i.e.: reduce 10% of this measured consumption) for subsequent years. Step 2: Implement a monetary reward system, coupled with real-time visual feedback of energy savings, to maximally incentivize students to reach and surpass this target figure. Step 3: Carefully monitor term-by-term statistics to revise the program implementation strategy and further optimize revenue.



2nd Place for $1,500: RU New to Eco-Friendly Transportation

Adam Cucchiara

Major: Landscape Industry. Abstract: The RU New to Eco-Friendly Transportation consists of a multiyear process to introduce two new forms of transportation to this university. Those two methods include a purely electric-powered monorail system and a series of bike lanes. Both will provide easy access for students to each campus without the distraction of local roads and traffic. The monorail track itself will supply a shelter for the bike lanes that will be installed underneath. To ensure the use of these lanes, Rutgers will promote a bike sharing system. This system has been around for dozens of years as it is utilized mostly in Europe and has shown to be effective. These bike sharing rental stations will be located on each campus and only be exclusive for students and faculty. With the introduction of these two methods, the use of busses will be minimized.



3rd Place for $1,000: Alternative Lawns - Using clover as an eco-sustainable alternative to grass

Kelsey Noll, Steven Daniels

Major(s): Genetics Minor(s): Spanish Daniels Major(s): Marine Sciences - Biological Oceanography. Abstract: Traditional grass lawns are costly, time-consuming, and not a sustainable, environmentally friendly option. Planting a White Dutch Clover (Trifolium repens) lawn as opposed to a traditional Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratenis) lawn reduces the fiscal and physical investment of lawn maintenance and promotes more sustainable practices, all while maintaining the green lawn appeal. This project investigates this lawn alternative, among others, and considers the advantages and disadvantages when compared to a traditional grass lawn. We have compiled our findings as a proposal to benefit Rutgers University and homeowners alike. We have created plans to implement clover lawns on both the engineering quad on Busch Campus and at Rutgers Gardens, which will make on-campus lawn maintenance more efficient while also educating the public about this alternative. Additionally, the project includes a start-up guide to planting a clover lawn to educate any interested individual who would like to grow such a lawn.



Honorable Mention: Tray-less Dining Halls

Pooja Pancholi, Sara Yesalavich, Rashmi Singh, Erin Conner

Abstract: Dining halls are significant contributors to water usage, food waste, and electricity usage, along with other forms of energy. Because of this, they can have a profound impact on the environment, even when compared to other parts of college campuses. Our program aims to eliminate the use of trays by slowly fazing them out over time. By eliminating trays throughout the New Brunswick campus, Rutgers will save significantly on water usage and food waste, as well as electricity, detergents, and such. Food waste will decline because students will no longer be able to pile their trays with multiple plates and cups. These reductions in food and water will not only help the environment but also save money for the university and students: a decrease in food waste will likely result in a decrease of ordered food and help control rising meal costs for students. Additionally, the removal of trays from dishwashers creates more space and allows more dishes to be washed using the same amount of water. By this simple action, multiple factors of energy use and consumption can be addressed in a significant way for a lasting effect.

  • Click here to read the entire proposal

2012 REI Energy Contest Winners

The Rutgers Energy Institute annually challenges Rutgers undergraduates to develop implementable plans for reducing energy consumption. The three top winning entries were awarded prizes at the 2012 REI Annual Symposium:



2012 REI Energy Contest Winners1st Place for $2,500: Rutgers Trash to Treasure Chest

Brittney Lindley, Josh Roe, Mikael Kuhn

Major(s) Bioenvironmental Engineering (all). Abstract: RU Trash to Treasure Chest gives students a better alternative for disposing of their unwanted items. The program will collect these items and sell them to students and community residents at a given date. Any leftover items will be donated to a charitable foundation, who will pick up the items themselves. It has been estimated that Rutgers would prevent 53 tons of waste from being landfilled each year. Based on 53 tons and 2.8 mpg (Inform Inc.), it is estimated that 39.6 gallons of diesel fuel will be saved through eliminating landfill trips. A total of 1.5 million kWh in energy reduction will be realized by implementing this program.



2nd Place for $1,500: Piezoelectric Energy Harvesting

Brian Doyle

Major: Materials Science and Engineering Minor: Psychology. Abstract: An opportunity exists at Rutgers University to implement a piezoelectric energy harvesting floor in the Busch Campus Center. The volume of foot traffic in the main hallway provides a great opportunity to promote energy awareness, while harvesting energy normally wasted. The main goal is to increase awareness of sustainable practices, which is accomplished through the floor itself and the two demonstration events through the first year. The harvested energy is on the order of 7 kWh per day, which is enough offset of the energy associated with the television displays that track the cumulative energy generated.



3rd Place for $1,000: Cogeneration Plant Power from Food Waste and Anaerobic Digestion

Matthew Ambrusch, Neil Ramchandani

Major(s): Bioenvironmental Engineering (all). Abstract: Given the opportunity presented by our large campus community here in New Brunswick, the authors of this proposal suggest that the University first partner with local institutions to consolidate their organic waste streams. With a combined waste stream of approximately 29 tons per day during the Spring and Fall semesters and 19 tons per day during the summer and winter breaks, the authors of this proposal demonstrate how installing and operating an anaerobic digester that feeds the campus cogeneration plant with refined biogas to produce energy would be a viable investment. Despite significant capital and operating costs, a digester system producing biogas, electricity, recoverable heat and marketable compost would be a cost effective and profitable method of disposing the University’s organic waste as well as generating alternative energy.

2011 REI Energy Contest Winners

Sponsored by PSEG

The Rutgers Energy Institute annually challenges Rutgers undergraduates to develop implementable plans for reducing carbon emissions. Three winning entries were awarded prizes for their creative and innovative solutions in reducing energy consumption at Rutgers.



2011 REI Energy Contest Winners $2,500 Award for Keycard Based Energy Saving Pilot Program

by Ajay Menon, Ian Johnston, and Brian Doyle

Abstract: The proposal is based on the implementation of a key card activated energy conservation system at the Crosby Suites that promotes energy use awareness and decreases instances of wasted energy. These card switches will be activated by Rutgers University student IDs which provide students with the ability to manage their own energy usage. Considering how essential RUIDs are to everyday life, when students leave their rooms, they’ll be required to remove their IDs from the switches, turning off the energy flow to the room. pdf Click here to read more .



$1,500 Award for Small Individual Changes Can Add Up to Make an Enormous Difference

by Christopher Licitra

Abstract: The proposal is based on the plan that the "small individual change" of having the correct tire pressure in the tires of commuters, faculty, and everyday drivers here on campus, will "make an enormous difference". This difference will be seen in reduced energy use and thus reduced cost, less pollution, reduced dependence on foreign oil, longer lasting tires, improved gas mileage per gallon, and - most importantly - increased safety. pdf Click here to read more.



$1,000 Award for EcoGraphic Statements

by Dillon Fernando

Abstract: “EcoGraphic Statements”, seeks to conserve energy and promote eco-friendly practices by designing and implementing graphic statements throughout campus. These evocative statements are developed so that they initiate a direct energy savings and indirectly provide an interest for the viewer to get onboard with our efforts to “go green.” pdf Click here to read more .




The Rutgers Energy Institute gratefully thanks PSEG for its support!


2010 Energy Contest for Undergraduates showcases Rutgers students ideas for the future

Sponsored by The Rutgers Energy Institute

The Rutgers Energy Institute annually challenges Rutgers undergraduates to develop implementable plans for reducing carbon emissions. Five winning entries were awarded prizes for the ideas they contributed towards helping Rutgers-New Brunswick become carbon neutral.

2010 Energy Contest Winners



Read more: 2010 Energy Contest for Undergraduates showcases Rutgers students ideas for the future

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