This week, researchers, industry professionals and hundreds of students are huddled at Carnegie Mellon to chart the future of our nation’s power grid.
Now in its fourth year, Carnegie Mellon University’s annual Energy Week is all about advancing energy policy and innovation. This year’s gathering features more than 100 experts as keynote speakers and panelists and runs through March 28.
Expert attendees included Grant Ervin, chief resilience officer for the City of Pittsburgh, as well as Chevron Technology Ventures President Barbara Burger and Brian Anderson, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.
Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh from the sidelines of Energy Week, the event’s lead organizer Anna Siefken — the executive director of The Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at CMU — said she and her team strive to include a wide variety of voices at the event, and to avoid the partisan grandstanding and sniping that often characterize our national energy debate.
“Hearing the different perspectives within the same topic area is really important,” said Siefken. “If we were all on the same page, and coming from the same perspective, we would be done. Something would have happened.”
A new event at this year’s gathering was the CMU VentureWell Energy Hackathon, where teams of engineers and students from a wide variety of disciplines got 24 hours to solve real technical problems posed by one of several partner organizations. During the event, 76 techies spread across 19 teams began brainstorming on Monday morning and made their final pitches to a jury of experts on Tuesday.
The first place prize of $2,000 went to Team Bottlerockers for their proposal to use machine learning to detect leaks at oil and gas wells, a challenge posed by Chevron. The team was led by engineers Kwaku Jyamfi and Lilan Huang of CMU, along with Joshua Pope from the University of Pittsburgh.
The second and third place teams solved problems posed by Honda and the Port Authority, respectively, while the People’s Choice Award of $250 went to Team Hackoverflow for their model predicting regional energy needs for NextEra Energy.
The Hackathon was funded by the nonprofit VentureWell, and will be a regular fixture at future versions of Energy Week.
“We luckily have it for three years, so we’ll be able to do it again,” said Siefken. “The caliber of students from both CMU and Pitt who participated was extraordinary.”