Innovation means nothing without customers.
UMass Dartmouth will demonstrate the partnership of business and engineering as one of only 15 institutions chosen to design and propose a marine energy product and its potential market at the first ever Marine Energy Collegiate Competition in Washington, D.C. this summer.
“This is an exciting opportunity to get undergrads engaged in a practical product in an emerging industry,” said Professor Dan MacDonald, chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering and professor in the Department of Estuarine and Ocean Sciences. “This sort of work will ready them for their future.”
The challenge set by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Water Power Technologies Office is to develop a device that extracts energy from waves in the ocean and stores it in a battery. The application should allow robotic submarines to plug in and recharge, much like an electric car plugs into a solar array. “It needs to be small and low-cost enough to be easily installed in many places,” said Professor MacDonald.
However, the project is not just about technology possibilities. The team must also present a marketing and business plan to get the item to market. Enter UMass Dartmouth Charlton College of Business students, advised by Professor Peter Karlson, to research the needs, identify customers, and develop a plan. “No technology business exists without customers,” said Karlson. “The ability to get a new innovation to market is a critical business skill.” The engineering and business students meet regularly to design solutions.
The University is competing with other prestigious engineering schools, including MIT, Virginia Tech, and the University of California, Berkley. The students and advisors, led by Dr. Mehda Raessi from Mechanical Engineering, Professor MacDonald, and Professor Karlson, will travel to the conference where they will present their proposal and display a concept model. The winning team will then be featured in a more detailed presentation as part of the conference.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for both the future engineers and the entrepreneurs to get a 360-degree view of innovation,” said Professor Karlson. And working in an up-and-coming field gives students a head start, added Professor MacDonald. “Our students are on the ground floor of research in the marine renewable energy industry.” he said.