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Hybrid Solar team member James Barger talks with judge Haeryung Shin at the Environmental Innovation Challenge yesterday. Hybrid Solar’s concept uses the heat absorbed by solar panels to heat water to lower home energy costs.

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A demonstration of the Idyll Energy Solutions switch shows how energy consumption is reduced without inconveniences to the end user.

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Seattle Pacific University student and member of team Idyll Energy Solutions Allen Klein presents the groups’ concept to the judges at the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge yesterday.

Science majors and business students came together outside the classroom yesterday in a competition to find environmentally friendly solutions to current energy problems.

“The most rewarding part of the entire process was having input from everybody, with all the different disciplines coming together to make the team work,” said Colin Corrent, a graduate in the UW’s Biochemistry Department and a member of the UW Triangle Energy team.

The Environmental Innovation Challenge was hosted by UW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship yesterday at the Magnuson Park Hanger. Nineteen teams from seven different universities in the state — 12 of which were from the UW — competed for the $10,000 grand prize. The teams made their pitches and presented their prototypes to 130 judges who represented various green-interested companies in the area.

Students were responsible for both creating and marketing the projects, which brought together participants from a variety of disciplines. Beyond the development of the prototype, teams wrote a business summary and presented a pitch discussing the problem at hand, the solution and the marketing opportunities of their projects.

Triangle Energy, composed of two MBA students, a mechanical-engineering graduate student, an undergraduate chemical-engineering student, and a graduate biochemistry student, was an example of the cross-discipline collaboration that occurred within the teams.

The team built a bioreactor to convert solid biomass into usable fuels which, when combined with their marketing pitch, won them second place.

“This is a unique opportunity to bring students as varied as business, engineering, and arts/sciences [together],” said Lauren Witt, assistant director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “They develop clean tech solutions for real-world problems.”

The idea behind the challenge is for students to use the knowledge they have acquired in the classroom to generate a functioning prototype that minimizes the environmental impacts of energy use and provides alternative ways to produce energy while being monetarily efficient.

Hybrid Solar, another UW team, tried to lower household energy usage by utilizing otherwise wasted heat absorbed by solar panels, simultaneously making the panels more efficient.

The group estimates that the time for their solar-panel system to pay for itself is four to six years less than that of traditional solar panels.

“We feel that the solar industry needs to head in this direction in order to pick up speed, and what we are doing is where you should see this large and growing market head,” said Eli Zackheim, an MBA student on the team.

Additionally, the event gave students the opportunity to receive feedback from industry professionals while presenting their ideas to green-technology companies.

The winning team, UW’s EnVitrum, presented ideas for integrating plant life into urban architecture.

Reach contributing writer Evelyne Kolker at news@dailyuw.com.

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