2019 REI Energy Contest Winners
The Rutgers Energy Institute (REI) annually challenges Rutgers undergraduates to develop implementable plans for reducing energy consumption on campus.
1st Place for $2,500: Impact of Bus Idling at Rutgers University
Scallo Major: Mechanical Engineering
Abstract: According to the Department of Energy, personal-vehicle idling wastes about 3 billion gallons of fuel and generates around 30 million tons of CO2 in the United States annually. It is recommended that if a vehicle remains idle for longer than 10 seconds, the engine should be turned off as the fuel consumed is equivalent to starting it up. Rutgers University has the 2nd largest bus system in New Jersey and contributes largely to wasted fuel and carbon emissions due to bus idling. This proposal estimates that Rutgers loses $35,301 from idling and heat losses and produces 128 tons of CO2 every academic year. It is recommended that Rutgers bus drivers follows three simple rules to limit its impact on the environment: turning off engine if idling for longer than 30 seconds, avoiding usage of HVAC unit when outside temperature is ± 5oF desired cabin temperature, leaving only driver side door open to limit energy loss during breaks.
2nd Place for $1,500: Bathing in Savings
Rebecca Bright and Sarah Bright
R. Bright Major: Environmental Policy, Institutions and Behavior
S. Bright Major: Pharmacy
Abstract: We plan to address an energy consumption issue through minimizing water usage in residence halls at Rutgers University — New Brunswick. The program, called Bathing in Savings, will utilize a three-pronged approach. First, we will install a more energy-efficient showerhead in order to reduce water usage, and thus, energy consumption. In addition, we will utilize a no-cost, educational approach to mitigate energy usage through posters. Finally, the contest will encourage students to be more energy-efficient, with a pizza party as an incentive to shorten shower times.
3rd Place for $1,000: Green Teams
Jenett Cheng, Bryan Zhu, Anjali Madgula and Noora Rehman
Cheng Major: Business Analytics Information Technology (BAIT), Economics
Zhu Major: Computer Science
Madgula Major: English
Rehman Major: Chinese and Environmental Policy, Institutions and Behavior
Abstract: Our solution is to create a network of Green Teams that are trained to work within their organization or department towards implementing a culture of sustainability that takes action towards energy efficiency by cultivating a variety of localized initiatives informed by interdisciplinary ideas. Faculty, students, and staff from a vast expanse of backgrounds would be trained to inspire methods to incorporate sustainability within their communities. Rutgers would become a pioneer in sustainability by creating short term and long term actions that inspire a generation of students to recognize sustainability as an interdisciplinary issue that is vital to our times.
Honorable Mention: Styrofoam Degradation, One Mealworm at a Time
Kyra Yap and Heloise Mugnier
Yap Major: Chemical Engineering
Mugnier Major: Biomedical Engineering,
Abstract: The accumulation of plastic waste has become a global issue, contributing to global warming and environmental damage worldwide. Rutgers University currently generates around 1.5 million pounds of polystyrene waste per semester, most of which is either dumped in landfills, or processed through waste incineration or recycling plants. Apart from recycling, which only accounts for 9% of all polystyrene waste, these methods of waste processing result in significant greenhouse gas and environmental pollution. We are proposing the creation of a polystyrene plastic waste processing plant on Rutgers University, which would use mealworms to degrade polystyrene into 50% CO2 and 50% nutrient-filled biomass. Although this process produces CO2, the facility will be designed to capture this CO2 to prevent it from entering the atmosphere. Mealworms can live off a diet of polystyrene and other types of plastics, processing about 34-50 mg of polystyrene/day by 100 mealworms. Although this is not a large number, an established mealworm farm costs as little as $0.10 per 1000 mealworms, making it possible to have an inexpensive mealworm farm containing millions of mealworms. Our projected costs have mealworms degrading polystyrene for as little as $0.122/kg by the end of the first two years of the facility’s establishment, making this process competitive with those of recycling and waste incineration. Finally, although the initial facility would begin with mealworms, the ultimate goal would be to research the mealworms bioprocesses to develop a genetically engineered process to degrade polystyrene, and other plastics, with high efficiency and low costs.