Graham Sustainability Institute

U-M Graduate Students Win $10K Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Graham Sustainability Institute's External Advisory Board recently selected three winners of the 2011 Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge, a global competition among graduate students to generate inventive and interdisciplinary ideas for sustainability.

U-M is one of seven universities on four continents invited to participate in the annual challenge, which awards $10,000 to each winning team. U-M award winners are as follows (in alphabetical order by project name):

  1. Impact Everyday: A third-party credit rewards program that enables cardholders to use their reward points or airline miles to invest in clean energy. Team members include Adam Carver, Aditya Bhandari, Anya Shyrokova, Ricardo Rodriquez, Rachana Patel, and Siyang Chen.
  2. ReGenerateTM: An on-site waste management system that uses a patent-pending combination of anaerobic digestion and aerobic composting to transform food waste and other organic material into hot water and compost. The product is called the Compact Organic Waste System (COWSTM). Team members include Hunt Briggs and Nolan Orfield.  
  3. SmartEnergy: A turnkey solution for financing and implementing energy performance retrofits in municipal facilities. Team members include Graham Brown, Mike Elchinger, Ryan Flynn, and Andy Lubershane.

“I was very impressed by the quality and interdisciplinary nature of all the applications we reviewed,” says Neil Hawkins, Vice President of Sustainability and Environment, Health & Safety at the Dow Chemical Company. “The winning students really crossed disciplines to come up with novel ideas that will make a significant impact on the future, and that’s what the Dow Challenge is all about.”

The three winners were selected from a competitive pool of 38 applicants based on the following criteria:

  • Innovative thinking and excellence in research;
  • Potential for solving significant problems;
  • Interdisciplinary nature of research;
  • Alignment to the spirit of Dow's 2015 Sustainability Goals

“We received a record number of entries to the Dow Challenge this year,” says Don Scavia, Director of the Graham Institute and Special Counsel to the U-M President on Sustainability, “We’re very proud to be part of an educational institution that spurs such innovative thinking toward sustainability solutions.”

For more information about the Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge, please visit or