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Illinois, Tennessee Students Win Chattanooga EV Challenge

Nov. 19, 2020
Student teams present innovative ideas to promote the use of EVs in the greater Chattanooga area.

On the final day of Chattanooga's Startup Week (Oct. 19 to Oct. 23), the spotlight was on students. The Company Lab's (CO.LAB's) inaugural Gig City Innovation Challenge invited college students from around the country to solve a real-world challenge developed by event sponsors EPB, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and green|spaces. The case presented to the students asked for innovative ideas to promote the use of electric vehicles (EVs) in the greater Chattanooga area, and they were only given 48 hours to develop a solution.

Student teams were given the challenge case before Startup Week, on Oct. 16, during a reverse pitch with sponsors where students were able to ask questions about the case, the Chattanooga area, and the challenges of EV adoption. Subject matter experts from EPB, TVA, CO.LAB, and green|spaces continued to answer questions from the teams as they worked on their solutions. On the afternoon of Oct. 18, each team submitted a slide presentation and a 4-min video explaining their approach to the challenge. Eight solutions were selected and forwarded to TVA, EPB, and green|spaces for review, resulting in the selection of four finalists to present during Startup Week.

Throughout the entire process, teams were identified by an element from the periodic table so that none of the reviewers or judges were aware of school affiliation. At the final pitch, held on Oct. 23, teams joined the virtual event to answer judges' questions after each of the pre-recorded videos were played. After 20 mins, the judges selected three winners:

  • First place: Team Zinc (Northwestern University)
  • Second place: Team Copper (STEM School Chattanooga)
  • Third place: Team Cobalt (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) 

Winning recommendations included ways to improve awareness of the advantages of EVs, countering common misconceptions, and partnering with automobile dealers to host events to give members of the community opportunities to see and test drive EVs.

Teams from colleges in six states — Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, and Tennessee — competed in the challenge.

"Congratulations to the winners and all the teams who participated in the challenge," said Dan Pratt, TVA VP for customer delivery. "Your innovative strategies will help address barriers to EV adoption so the communities we serve can reap the benefits of going electric."

Leadership at CO.LAB said this event aligns perfectly with the mission of the Chattanooga Smart Communities Collaborative (CSCC) formed in recent years, of which CO.LAB and EPB are member organizations. The CSCC is a multi-organizational effort including academia, corporations, and governments whose mission is to develop and implement solutions relevant to the region's existing assets, with verticals in energy, mobility, and health. This year's Gig City Innovation Challenge followed the Freight Tech Innovation Challenge and the Unum HBCU Innovation Challenge held last year, focusing on mobility and healthcare solutions, respectively.

"EPB is committed to pioneering efforts that position Chattanooga as a leader in adopting sustainable technologies like EVs," said Lance Irwin, EPB director of energy solutions technology. "We were glad to join with our partners in engaging college students in developing their best thinking about this incredibly important topic."

"We are excited that we were able to engage some of the nation's top emerging talent through this challenge and look forward to future innovation events supporting the energy sector," said Marcus Shaw, CEO of CO.LAB. "Our challenge sponsors, EPB, TVA, and green|spaces, gained great insights and ideas for the steps necessary to make Chattanooga an EV-friendly city. We look forward to leading more idea-based competitive challenges to support local industry leaders and attracting participants to Chattanooga, which we know is a great place to grow a business and career."

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