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WPI Sustainability Innovation Challenge

Monday, October 17, 2022
1:00 pm

WPI's Sustainability Innovation Challenge

Challenge runs Monday, October, 17th -  Friday, October 21st

Applications Close on Thursday, October 13th 

We are challenging students to use their creativity, ingenuity and tenacity to develop innovative solutions that will equip WPI to prepare for a sustainable future. The challenge focuses on three major categories relevant to the WPI campus: 1) Energy 2) Food Waste and 3) Recycling. The purpose of this challenge is to find new or improved systems that minimize waste and position WPI to make a positive environmental impact. 

Join us for a five-day event on developing solutions that will help improve WPI’s environmental impact, with the opportunity to win a cash prize ranging from $500 - $1,500. We can't guarantee that WPI Innovation challenge solutions will be implemented, but student ideas are invaluable and will be considered during future sustainability planning. We hope that you’ll join us in our mission, and we look forward to learning about all your projects and ideas. 

This five-day event will encompass a team matching networking event and skill building workshops leading into the challenge submission followed by an in-person pitch competition. 

NOTE: You do not need a team to apply. Our intro session will include a speed networking activity to assist in finding a team. Team size can range from 2 - 4 students.


There will be three tracks for this challenge: 

Energy: Over the course of the academic year in 2022, WPI used 26,673,000 kWh of electricity. A typical US household consumes around 10000 kWh per year. To put that in perspective, it would take 8.2 acres of forest to sequester the amount of carbon used by that household in one year. What ways can we reduce electricity consumption? Are there ways to offset or more efficiently use energy on campus or off campus? Are there ways to decrease gas and electricity usage to lower utility bills for off-campus students? Can students play a part in reducing WPI's energy usage? Submissions can be in any size range, on the level of students, departments, off campus apartments, all of WPI, or anything else.  

Food Waste: Food is a part of everyday life; therefore, it is no surprise that food takes up more space in United States landfills than anything else. WPI has made strides towards reducing food waste through a variety of programs designed to minimize environmental impact. WPI partners with Tyde Brook Farm to divert food waste from Morgan Dining Hall to animal feed. The Food Recovery Network donates surplus food from dining halls around campus to local homeless shelters in the Worcester area. The WPI Green Team annually hosts Project Clean Plate to encourage students to minimize food waste. Despite these initiatives, food waste is a continuous issue among the WPI community, both on and off campus. How can existing measures be improved to prevent further food waste? Can on-campus initiatives be expanded to include students that reside off campus? Building off existing resources, brainstorm initiatives to divert and/or reduce food waste generated by the WPI community.  

Recycling: We live in a consumer-centric society, which means lots of waste is generated from single-use items, like bags and bottles, and from items that people just throw away that could otherwise have been recycled. WPI has separate receptacles for trash and recycling in dining halls and academic buildings, as well as graphics outlining what can and can't be recycled, as well as motivations to do so. The town of Worcester encourages recycling by having residents pay for trash bags, motivating the correct separation of trash and recycling. However, students do not always separate trash and recycling, and many items that could be recycled end up in the trash, and vice versa. 

Submissions could include technical innovations or broad policy innovations, initiatives to improve student and department recycling, ways to improve the recycling or disposal of specific materials, or ways to reduce the need for waste separation altogether.  

A general note: As you work together in your teams, you may realize that various ideas can only come to a certain degree of completion during our weekend-long competition. If you have a physical prototype by the end, that’s great! If not, but you have a great concept with research and planning to back it, that’s completely fair game! Just flesh your idea out as much as possible within the time constraints, we don’t expect your renovation of a building to physically happen overnight. Graphical mockups, writing, software demos, and CAD designs can all be helpful in communicating the value of an innovation. 


Applications Open:   Monday, September 19th 
Applications Close:  Thursday, October 13th




Cash Prizes: 

First Place:            $1,500 

Second Place:      $1,000 

Third place:          $500 


Challenge Timeline: 

Day 1 (Monday, October 17th)   - Virtual 
  • 1:00 pm – Opening Ceremony to Sustainability Innovation Challenge  
  • 1:30 pm - Team Matching Speed Networking Activity  

If you don’t have a team (2-4 students), you can participate in a speed networking activity to be matched with students that have common interests and compatibilities (Optional) 


Day 2 (Tuesday, October 18th)  - Virtual 


  • 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm 

Workshop Name:  

  • Innovation and Research for Broader Impacts: Connecting to the Sustainable Development Goals

Workshop Facilitators: 

  • Dr. Sarah Stanlick, Ph.D. - Assistant Professor, Department of Integrative and Global Studies (DIGS), Director, Great Problems Seminar

Workshop Description:

  • WPI students are curious, bright, and passionate about making a difference in the world. Through research and engagement, they seek to nudge the world in positive ways.  But how do we connect individual and team-based projects to larger goals?  The UN Sustainable Development Goals are seventeen connected goals that focus on imperative global challenges from education to economic prosperity to clean energy.  The goals are both a call to action and important guideposts to ensure that we are all working in partnership towards the greater good.  This workshop will help give you a solid grounding and understanding of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, provide promising practices and tangible examples, and help develop your personal skills for research and innovation with humility, intentionality, and creativity.


Day 3 (Wednesday, October 19th- Virtual 

Workshop Name:  

  • Value Creation Workshop  


  • 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Workshop Facilitators: 

  • Curt Carlson - Founder & CEO of Practice Innovation, WPI Distinguished Executive-in-Residence & WPI Trustee 

  • Curtis Abel - Executive Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship

  • Kristie Dejesus - Senior Associate Director, Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Workshop Description:

  • Impact is when you solve problems that matter to others, and value creation is how you make it happen. Mastering value creation is one professional skill that only becomes more valuable over your entire career. Learning how to create value allows you to have a career with greater achievement, more meaning, and lots of enjoyment.  Few professionals have these skills today; those who do are in constant demand and sought out by others. 

    Join this workshop to gain insight on this lifelong transferrable skill to help you make a purposeful impact with your innovation.


Day 4 (Thursday, October 20th- Virtual 

Workshop Name:  



  • 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm 

Workshop Facilitators: 

  • TBD

Workshop Description:


  • All teams will have the opportunity to work on their projects and to engage with WPI mentors to ask questions and receive feedback. 

  • Submission of your team’s project title due by 6:00 pm 


Day 5 (Friday, October 21st)  - Virtual 
  • 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm: Pitch Competition Begins


Registration Deadline:
Thursday, October 13, 2022 11:59 pm
Jasmine Jones