Five WMU teams compete in statewide clean energy challenge

Contact: Mark Schwerin

KALAMAZOO--Five teams of Western Michigan University students will join finalists from five other universities across Michigan to present their green technology solutions and vie for more than $100,000 in prizes at the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge this week.

Teams will present their green energy strategies starting at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, at the University of Michigan's Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Bob Lutz, retired General Motors vice chairman, will speak at the event.

WMU's five teams are among a total of 16 competing. In addition to WMU, teams are coming from Lake Superior State University, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.

The challenge was established by U-M and DTE Energy to encourage students from Michigan colleges and universities to grow clean-energy solutions into thriving businesses.

"Western Michigan University is excited to have five teams chosen as finalists to participate in this statewide competition," says Dr. Kay Palan, dean of WMU's Haworth College of Business. "We have teams representing the College of Business and the College of Engineering. Most teams have been busy planning for this event since last September or even longer. The competition challenges students to focus on the entrepreneurial aspect of their projects in addition to clean-energy--both of which are so vital to the Michigan economy."

WMU's Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge teams

  • Revolutionary Winds is developing a vertical wind turbine that can be easily refitted on any existing pole structure, thus illuminating the need for new poles, and the ability to generate electricity off grid and on grid. Team members are Neil Hurley and Matthew Olsen.
  • e1e2 (earth first, everything else second) is a recycling program that awards members points for recycling. The members can use their recycling points as discounts or coupons for products and services within their local community, online and at national retailers. The effort was founded in March 2011 in Kalamazoo by Samuel Jaquette at StartUp Weekend. Team members are Jaquette, a WMU alumnus; Aaron Holmes, of Kalamazoo Valley Community College; Adam Parr, a Northwood University alumnus; and WMU students Abdullah Alyousif, Katrisha Johnson, Nathon Johnson and Duy Nguyen.
  • ReClaim is developing new technology for using existing heat exhaust to create electricity backup systems. Team members are Aaron Tardy, Sergio Cappelletti and Olivia Starks.
  • Glass Reclamation is recycling glass in a specialty class that is not currently recycled or pulverized. The product and the byproduct are used in concrete to build buildings that are Leed certified. Team members are Samantha Marsh, Nicole Clement, Kate Lutz, Drew Williams, Dan Duzenberry and Rachel Plaster.
  • Verma Biomass is focusing on using a specific type of worm to break down biodegradable material from healthcare facilities that is not currently recycled. Team members are Lindsey Truit, Andrea LaVasseur and Brian Oswald.

At the start of the competition, business ideas ranged from a sketch on a napkin to a fully formed, pre-revenue company. Each team competed for the full six-months of the challenge and received assistance in identifying a business model as well as mentoring and discussion opportunities with venture capital and angel investors.

This year, for the first time, the competition is part of a national effort encouraging young entrepreneurs to develop greener energy solutions through President Obama's Startup America campaign. The winner of the Michigan contest will advance to a regional competition in the spring and could eventually have a shot at a national grand prize in Washington, D.C., this summer.

In addition to a first- and second-place prize at the Michigan contest, judges will give awards in six categories, including best resource conservation, increased energy efficiency and green building. They will give five special achievement awards to best prototype, most disruptive, best team assembled, best pivot(s) and judges' choice.

The Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge is a statewide competition administered by the Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan. It is a new version of the Michigan Clean Energy Prize. In addition to experience, connections and feedback students will receive through the competition, there are opportunities for micro grants and other prizes totaling more than $100,000.

For more information, visit or contact Valorie Juergens at or (269) 387-5964.