Engineering Teams Win Transportation Innovation Acceleration Challenge

Two Villanova teams were among the five teams selected nationwide as winners of the 2009 Transportation Innovation Acceleration Challenge (TIAC). The teams, each of which has developed an idea that is of interest to the U.S. Department of Energy Transportation Technologies Program Office, will make a presentation to DoE officials in Washington, DC, in June.

The team consisting of ME graduate students Timothy Montalbano ’08 and Ronald Warzoha ’08 conceived of an idea to simultaneously reduce pressure drag and store energy via a rotating cylinder. The second team comprises four 2009 chemical engineering graduates: Morgan Kapp, Michael Weiss, Jay Ong, and Thomas Mantle. Their idea is for a more sustainable battery for electric vehicles.

The teams have each received $4,000 to develop a 20-minute slide presentation that explains their idea, its potential impact, and the team’s next steps. This audience with the DoE will give the teams an opportunity to get feedback and guidance from government experts. “We are hoping that a direct relationship with the DoE might develop,” Montalbano said.

Both teams had originally participated in the MIT Clean Energy Prize—a competition designed to stimulate energy innovation and entrepreneurship—as part of an assignment for a course on nanomaterials, catalysis, and energy taught by Dr. Michael Smith, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering. On the basis of the core idea that the teams proposed in their executive summary for that competition, the judging committee chose them as winners of the TIAC.

The TIAC was set up in partnership with the MIT Clean Energy Prize to promote new ideas in the area of sustainable transportation. In helping his team develop their idea, Kapp drew on material he was learning in a graduate course on impact assessment, which is part of the College’s Sustainable Engineering curriculum. “I realized that sustainability is almost common sense, but our brains aren’t trained to think in those terms. This course helped me broaden my outlook as an engineer.”