If you thought designing and implementing a contest for college students was a no-brainer, think again.
Especially if it happens to be in an emerging domain such as clean technology, and especially when you are dealing thousands of bright students!
It would thus be interesting for you to read the chronicle of the Carbon Zero Challenge from the time it was discussed around a lunch table to the stage where we actually had shortlisted 26 students teams, each with an exciting clean energy / sustainability innovation under their belt!
It was sometime in Sep 2017 that the idea of Carbon Zero Challenge was discussed – the participants included the US Embassy, IIT Madras and a few professionals from the renewable energy industry.
While the concept of having a competition on clean energy for youngsters, specifically college students and young startups, sounded cool, most participants were not sure how much of a response we would get. As a result, after the initial brainstorming session, it took a few weeks for the core team to come up with a feasible template for implementation.
IIT and US Embassy got on the team professionals from IWMA (Industrial Waste Management Association) and EAI (a renewable energy consulting firm), to help them put together the program and market it. This team, along with youngsters from IIT’s own Shaastra team, started working on Carbon Zero Challenge starting January 2017.
From then on, it has been an exciting 6 months, and we now have 26 teams actually shortlisted to develop prototypes.
But it was not all smooth sailing.
It took us a while to get the word about Carbon Zero Challenge to far and wide within south India (the geographical scope for the competition). We put together a strong team comprising youngsters from all the stakeholder units. With a good amount of promotion that we did using mainly online media (web sites and email), we were able to reach out to hundreds of colleges and thousands of college students.
Even after this effort, we were keeping our fingers crossed. We wanted at least 250 applications so that we have enough of number to shortlist 50 entries for the first stage.
250 applications! That sounded like a very large number in the initial days. Are there so many college students in South India working on clean energy and sustainability innovations. Doubts lingered.
We need not have bothered. By the deadline, we had over 550 college students and young startups register with their innovations. It was indeed stunning!
From a threat of scarcity, we now had a problem of plenty, but this was a pleasant problem for us to face.
The Carbon Zero Challenge team worked overtime to review all the 500+ applications, and from this list emerged 50 teams that were invited to present their ideas to the judges on Jul 18th and 19th at IIT.
These two were exciting and highly satisfying days indeed when we saw brilliant, young minds pitch their innovative ideas to the seasoned judges. After a long, long day, the judges were able to finally settle on the 26 teams that will make it to the final.
Wow. What a journey!
And here we are, with the final 20+ teams, and these teams will be developing the prototypes with help from technical and business mentors.
The Carbon Zero Challenge team wishes all the 20+ teams the very best!