Graham Sustainability Institute

U-M Graduate Students Win $10,000 for Sustainability Ideas

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan announces the winners of the 2010 Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge, through which graduate students with the most innovative ideas for addressing the issue of sustainability receive $10,000 from The Dow Chemical Company.

Both individual students and student groups entered the Dow Challenge, which required entries to be interdisciplinary and to clearly articulate a pioneering concept, such as a new process, service, policy, technology, or product.

A U-M committee comprising broad-based expertise from multiple disciplines selected the winners based on pre-defined criteria. Winners are using the award money to help move their proposed projects forward. Here are the three award winning ideas -- and the student teams that submitted them:

Hippo Water International (HWI): A Simple Design Can Change the World
A new business model to effectively distribute water rollers – a proven collection and transport technology to alleviate problems associated with lack of access to water in the developing world. Team members (all from the Ross School of Business):

  • Colm Fay, Ross School of Business/School of Natural Resources & Environment (Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise)
  • Cynthia Koenig, Ross/SNRE (Erb Institute)
  • Christopher Mueller, Ross School of Business/Ford School of Public Policy

BioLumination: Brightening the Future with the Waste of Today 
A plan to introduce a device called the Biolight for combusting waste to produce light, thus helping to improve the quality of life for rural villages in the developing world while minimizing environmental impacts. Team members:

  • Robert Levine, Chemical Engineering
  • Paul Davis, Ross/SNRE (Erb Institute)

Nalu Solar Software
An idea for a software company that would encourage greater adoption of solar photovoltaic technology by lowering the cost of installed solar PV systems. Team members:

  • Jennifer McLaughlin, Ross/SNRE (Erb Institute)
  • Prashanth Prasad, Ross School of Business
  • Imogen Taylor, Ross School of Business.

The Graham Institute is administering the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge on behalf of the University of Michigan – one of the few universities invited to participate in this worldwide competition.

“We are honored to be taking part in this unique program,” says Don Scavia, director of the Graham Institute and special counsel to the U-M president on sustainability, “and we’re very proud to represent an educational institution that spurs such innovative thinking toward sustainability solutions.”

The Graham Institute promotes sustainability-focused research, education, and outreach at U-M by fostering interdisciplinary collaboration among units involved in sustainability. Partners include the 19 degree-granting Schools and Colleges, as well as administrative units throughout the extensive U-M community.

The Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge recognizes and rewards students for their innovation and research of sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing social, economic, and environmental problems. As part of the program, the student winners will attend an annual recognition event to celebrate their energy, commitment, and contribution to sustainable innovation.

For more information about the Dow Challenge, and to view the winning entries, visit the Graham Institute website at