Colorado State University MBA Team’s Energy-Saving Idea among Finalists in International Competion

Two graduates of Colorado State University’s College of Business MS-CIS program won a trip to Paris in June to present their home energy-saving idea to an international panel of judges from Schneider Electric.

Nicole Stahly and Austin Walton were one of two teams from the United States among the finalists in Schneider’s third Go Green in the City competition. This year, the company opened the contest to 10 new countries, bringing the total to 19, including Brazil, China, France, Poland, Russia, India, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, the U.S. and eight countries in Southeast Asia, reflecting the company’s position as a global specialist in energy management.

After two rounds of preliminary judging that reduced the initial 3,000 entries to 100 then 25, the remaining two-person teams traveled to Paris for three days of presenting case studies illustrating their ideas for viable energy management solutions in one of the five basic urban sectors–residential, university, business, water and hospitals.

“We are extremely proud of Nicole and Austin,” said Jon D. Clark, Chair of the Computer Information Systems Department in the College of Business. “They ably represented the quality of education and innovation that is an integral part of the educational experience at CSU on the international stage.”

Stahly and Walton, who graduated in May, competed in the residential category, with a smart breaker box and open-platform web-based app that allowed homeowners to monitor all the electrical outlets in their house remotely, to give them complete mastery of their home energy usage through their smart devices.

“For the first round, we had to submit a one-minute video,” Stahly, who now works for Otterbox in Fort Collins, said. “For the second and third rounds, we were assigned a mentor from Schneider who helped us develop our 800-word business plan and research the market in more depth.”

By the time they got to Paris, the CSU team was ready to present another one-minute video and a 15-minute PowerPoint covering not only the technical aspects of their device, but how they intended to bring it to market: their marketing approach, supply chain and partnership development plans, and financing strategy.

Walton, now working as a consultant for a project management firm in Boston, said the team’s presentation before the half-dozen judges from Schneider departments throughout the world went well, even though they were not chosen as one of the top three.

“Compared to the other ideas, ours wasn’t the most inventive or had the most impact on world energy issues,” Walton said. “We were solving a first-world problem.”

The winning idea was presented by a team of electronics and communications engineering students from the Philippines – one of the new counties competing this year — who proposed an alternative energy solution that harvests energy from road humps. When vehicles pass over the traffic-calming “Oscillohump,” embedded springs plunge magnets into solenoids that generate power to charge a battery. The stored energy can then be used to power LED street lamps, traffic lights, or CCTV cameras. Excess energy may also be fed to the power grid.

The winning team will visit Schneider Electric facilities around the world and participate in networking sessions with its employees and top-level executives, as well as being offered employment with Schneider.

"With Go Green in the City, Schneider Electric is proud to have enabled promising students to familiarize themselves with their future working lives, using real cases and working closely with experienced employees who are aware of global energy challenges,” said Karen Ferguson, Executive Vice President, Global Human Resources at Schneider Electric. "With more than 50 percent female participants, we also wanted to stress the importance of promoting diversity in industrial jobs with the organization of this contest."

Both Stahly and Walton said just getting to spend three days in Paris with the other competitors from around the world, sharing their ideas and cultures, was the best part of the experience.

“We all keep in touch through a Facebook group, too,” Stahly said.