Team from The USA wins Judges Choice innovation award for an efficient spring-based tracking system for solar panels

Three students from the University of Texas at Austin have been acknowledged as some of the most promising students in innovation by Shell Ideas360, a global programme connecting students in order to develop ideas to tackle the world’s food, water and energy challenges.

In its fourth year, Shell Ideas360 asked students to submit innovative solutions to world’s issues, and the programme received more than 750 entries from over 144 countries. Students were given the opportunity to shape their concept into a business pitch with mentors and had access to a platform of resources to further help refine skills and provide them with real world experience.

Mandeep Patel, Malvika Gupta, and Taylor Zhao of Team Smart Panels have won the overall programme and the Audience Choice Award voted for by Shell Ideas360’s online community and each member will now be awarded a National Geographic Adventure. The winning idea is a tracking system for solar panels. By coiling shape memory alloys into springs that stretch when cool, this simple sun-trapping system allows the solar panel to move back and forth, tracking the sun in the sky. As well as increasing the panel’s energy output, the idea has the potential to make solar energy more affordable to cost-sensitive customers.

Five teams were selected as finalists and pitched their ideas in front of a panel of esteemed judges at the Shell Ideas360 finale at Make the Future Live – a festival of ideas and innovation that took place at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The judging panel of business and NGO experts included James Temperton, Senior Editor at WIRED UK, Alexander Moen, VP of National Geographic’s Explorers Program, Christophe Boulanger, VP of Strategic Customers at Shell, Patricia Garcia, VP of ER Projects & Technology at Shell, Marian Marino, Manager, GameChangers at Shell, and Mallika Ishwaran, Senior Economist, Group Strategy at Shell. After deliberation, the judges voted for Team Smart Panels, whose idea they considered to be the most disruptive and revolutionary of all.

Team member, Malvika said:

“ We’re so excited to be chosen as the winner of Shell Ideas360, we’re all buzzing.”

“With the help of our mentor, we now feel more than ever that our idea has the opportunity to become a reality, and we can’t wait to celebrate on our National Geographic Adventure!”

Erik Bonino, Executive Vice President of Downstream Technology for Shell, said:

“The premise of our programme, Shell Ideas360, is to inspire future leaders to develop game changing ideas to help tackle challenges with the world’s resources (food, water and energy) in the coming years. The programme is an exciting opportunity for students from around the world to participate in a journey of learning and discovery. Students are paired with industry-leading mentors who can provide guidance and support in refining the ideas.”

“We’re pleased to present the top award to Team Smart Panels and we look forward to seeing the evolution of this idea following the programme. At Shell, innovation is at the core of what we do and it’s through initiatives like these that we can help shape the next generation of innovators. We congratulate all of the entrants of the 2016/2017 programme and look forward to continued success.”

The finalist teams were celebrated in a prestigious award ceremony at Shell’s #makethefuture Accelerator event on May 25. The event featured entrepreneurs from a variety of Shell’s enterprise programmes, esteemed speakers, academics, judges, and Shell executives including Erik Bonino, Sinead Lynch, UK Country Chair and Jo Cochrane, Vice President of Social Performance.

The five finalist teams competing in the 2017 programme were:

  • KoolStore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
    Idea: Affordable and easy-setup storage container that effectively cools fresh produce, for households without stable access to energy. Watch the pitch video here.
  • Fix&Fish, Delft University of Technology, Netherlands
    Idea: Localised, streamlined plastic processing plants to make fishing nets out of plastic ocean waste using low-tech processes. Watch the pitch video here.
  • Smart Panels, University of Texas at Austin, USA
    Idea: Efficient spring-based tracking system for solar panels. Watch the pitch video here.
  • TheBlueTap, University of Cambridge, UK
    Idea: The Blue Tap chlorine injector automatically inserts chlorine into household water supply to improve water quality for homes and businesses. Watch the pitch video here.
  • Passive solar water wall, Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, India
    Idea: Passive solar water wall aims to reduce the electricity consumption and total carbon footprint of houses by substituting conventional air cooling systems. Watch the pitch video here.

The free festival, Make the Future Live featuring Shell Eco-marathon, took place from 25 to 28 May, hosted in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. Click here to find out more.