CAES announces winners of CAES Annual Pitch Event 2021: Pathways to INL Net Zero

Winners announced in CAES’ annual pitch competition

A faculty member from Idaho State University and two researchers with Idaho National Laboratory (INL)  emerged as the winners of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies’ annual pitch event.

Modeled after the “Shark Tank” television show, CAES Annual Pitch Event 2021: Pathways to INL Net Zero was designed to help the research community at INL’s Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES)  develop and hone the skills needed to effectively pitch technical ideas or solutions, and to help INL accelerate its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2031.

“We were excited to have the CAES Annual Pitch Event for the second year in a row, and for the first time leverage the capabilities of the CAES universities and INL toward INL’s ambitious carbon-neutrality goals,” CAES Interim Director Terry Brog said.

Researchers from all of the CAES entities participated – INL, Boise State University, Idaho State and University of Idaho.

The competition began in July with a call for ideas in three categories: projects that were ready to implement today, demonstration-level projects that require development before implementation, and an open submission category in which all ideas were welcome.

Fourteen ideas advanced to the semifinals, and the contestants took part in training designed to help them more effectively pitch their ideas.

“We had a strong team supporting this challenge,” said CAES Innovation Advisor Michael Baskin. “INL trainers provided value proposition training, Rapid Idea Improvement Sessions, feedback in the semifinals and pitch coaching for the finalists. The developmental aspect of the challenge was as important as the impact aspect.”

The field was cut to eight for the final round, and each finalist was allotted five minutes to pitch their idea live before a panel of judges (see below) during the final competition Sept. 23. One winner was selected in each of the three categories. Each will receive $15K in research funding to help further develop their idea, and the runners-up also will receive funding to help advance their ideas. Here is a list of the finalists who received awards:

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Amey Khanolkar

Track A: Demonstration Projects

  • First place: Amey Khanolkar/INL, “Innovative Carbon-Free HVAC Systems using Nuclear Micro-Reactors at INL’s Site”: $15K
  • Runner up: Naqsh Mansoor/Boise State University, “Energy Efficient Water Remediation via Flow Electrode Capacitive Deionization”: $13K
  • Second runner up: Muhammad Usama Usman/INL, “INL Internet of Buildings (INL-IoB) Platform”: $10K

Track B: Implement Today 

  • First place: Benny Varghese/INL”, “Solar Covered Parking Spots”: $15K
  • Runner up: Damon Woods/University of Idaho, “Infrared Thermostat”: $10K
  • Second Runner up: Amey Khanolkar/INL, “Modernizing INL’s Buildings Using Electrochromatic Smart Windows”

Track C: Open Submission

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Benny Varghese

  • First place: Mustafa Mashal/Idaho State University, “Sustainable and Green Concrete Mixes for INL’s Infrastructure”: $15K
  • Runner up: Michael Hoover/INL, “Essential Function Analysis Capability – Business Continuity”: $10K

 The judges panel consisted of:

  • Stephen Boorman, assistant general manager at Idaho Falls Power
  • Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Integrated Energy Systems lead in INL’s Nuclear Science & Technology directorate
  • Hayes Jones, Resilience and Security and Operations lead for the US Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program
  • Mitchell Kerman, director of Institutional Planning and Programs at INL
  • Deborah Tate, director of Campus Planning at INL
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Mustafa Mashal

More information about the pitch event can be found here.