Nationwide: Max Tech and Beyond Design Competition Gives Students the Opportunity to Solve Energy Challenges

Project Overview
Positive Impact: By encouraging students to design and develop appliances that are more efficient than any other technology on the market, the competition gives students a hands-on experience not replicable in the classroom.
Location: Nationwide
Partners: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
EERE Investment: $1,750,000
Clean Energy Sector: Energy-saving homes, buildings, and manufacturingPDF

EERE’s Max Tech and Beyond competition invests in a new generation of engineers and their ideas to make appliances and equipment more energy efficient. In the last two years, 17 collegiate design teams have participated in the competition. The student teams have created product prototypes for energy-efficient heating, cooling, water heating, clothes drying, and lighting that have the technical potential of saving more than 3.5 quads of energy per year. This technical potential represents more than 15% of all residential energy use. Each of these new technologies has such a large savings potential that, even if only a few make it to full market adoption, the nation's annual energy bill will be lowered by hundreds of millions of dollars. The winning design for academic year 2012–2013—a heat pump clothes dryer—could save the same amount of energy used to power two million homes, or almost every home in Maryland. The Max Tech and Beyond competition is enhancing those prospects with its new Bridge-to-Market program for successful prototypes. The top two teams from the 2012–2013 competition, the University of Maryland and Ohio State University, attended an Entrepreneurship Academy at the University of California, Davis, where they developed and pitched business plans to drive their prototypes toward the market. They also showcased and operated their prototypes inside actual solar-powered homes at DOE’s Solar Decathlon.

The Bridge-to-Market program is part of a larger expansion taking place within the Max Tech competition. Since its first year, the number of universities solicited has doubled, and is now at more than 100. Twelve teams are competing in the current competition, which is up from eight last year. Of the 17 teams that have already competed, six of them are pursuing invention disclosures or patents (either for their entire prototype or for a specific technology used within it). By encouraging students to design and develop appliances that are more efficient than any other technology on the market—like the heat pump clothes dryer that saves nearly 60% of the energy of a standard electric dryer—EERE is helping to give students hands-on experience that is not replicable in the classroom.

The Building Technologies Office leads a vast network of research and industry partners to continually develop innovative, cost-effective energy saving solutions—better products, better new homes, better ways to improve older homes, and better buildings in which we work, shop, and lead our everyday lives.

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