Winners announced in Ohio State Energy Partners’ first Smart Campus Challenge

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The first Smart Campus Challenge, presented by Ohio State Energy Partners ENGIE and Axium Infrastructure, concluded Saturday with all six finalists winning $144,000 dollars, combined, for their project proposals to make the Columbus campus of The Ohio State University more sustainable.

Six student teams who advanced to the final stage of this venture capitalist-style sustainability competition pitched their campus sustainability projects to judges representing Ohio State faculty, staff, alumni, students and the CEO of Ohio State Energy Partners (OSEP). The six winning teams will now have the chance to make their dream projects a reality with funding from the competition.

The winning teams are:

1st Place: Wasted Opportunities ($54k)
A proposed start-up that collects otherwise wasted food from dining locations and food providers to donate to local organizations, while also collecting food waste data to optimize university purchasing patterns.

2nd Place: Search for Trees ($40k)
This project aims to leverage an everyday activity — searching the web — and the size of the Ohio State community to address greenhouse gas emissions by using the Ecosia search engine, which uses 80% of their profits to plant trees in areas that need them most.

3rd Place: Faci ($10k)
A community-focused social enterprise that strives to be transparent with what people are putting on their bodies and the planet, starting by diverting coffee grounds from landfills and repurposing them into all natural exfoliating face and body scrubs.

Additional Funded Teams:
Solar Bus Stop ($20k)
This project provides students with an interactive experience to learn quick facts about renewable energy both on campus and in the world while waiting for the bus by installing solar panels with an interactive touch-screen at one of campus’ bus stops.

We CAN Change the World ($10k)
A week-long event called Clash of Cans where students compete to collect and submit the most recycled items through a hands-on process that allows students to physically see their impact on the environment and gain a better understanding of Ohio State’s recycling guidelines.

Surfactant Addition to the East Regional Chilled Water Plant ($10k)
This project will test the addition of an oil to Ohio State’s existing East Regional Chilled Water Plant and aims to increase the energy efficiency of the plant’s chilled water loops.

“The Smart Campus Challenge really was an event that has enabled creativity within sustainability at the university level, which can also expand outside the university,” Mike Fackler, a fourth-year in environment, economy, development and sustainability and project manager for the first-place Wasted Opportunities team, said during an interview. “For me, we walked into this thing and we were really like, with $54,000 we could really start to do something special with food waste.”

The first-place team will travel to Paris for ENGIE’s Innovation Week in June and be awarded $54,000 to complete their project. Each team has until the end of spring semester 2020 to complete their sustainability projects.

“Congratulations to all of the finalists for entering the competition and putting their best ideas forward,” said Serdar Tufekci, CEO of OSEP. “Even for teams that didn’t make it to the final event, our goal was to create a good learning opportunity for them on what it takes to turn ideas into real-world projects. We look forward to working with the winning teams to make Ohio State more sustainable and hope that the experience teaches valuable business and project management skills to the students involved.”

Ohio State Energy Partners sponsored the inaugural Smart Campus Challenge as part of its annual academic investment program. The goal of the student sustainability competition is to connect student talents to sustainability innovation by funding projects that enhance campus resource efficiency and environmental performance.

More information is available on the OSEP website,

Ohio State Energy Partners is a joint venture of ENGIE and Axium Infrastructure, which was selected in 2017 by Ohio State to operate, maintain and optimize the university’s utility system at the more than 400-building campus in Columbus, Ohio, under a 50-year contract.