UW students tackling energy poverty win big at start-up competition with their new venture 'Circadian Energy'
By Brian Caldwell Faculty of Engineering
A sense of purpose trumped flat-out fun when four mechatronics engineering students finally settled on a project to cap their undergraduate years at the University of Waterloo.
Now they have confirmation it was the right way to go.
John Curticapean, Ben Hudson, Tony Qu and Malcolm Williams took one of six $10,000 prizes this week as student startups pitched their business ideas at the Norman Esch Entrepreneurship Awards for Capstone Design competition.
Instead of a racing game combining remote control cars and virtual reality technology – one of at least 50 project possibilities they kicked around – they stepped on stage as Circadian Energy to outline a low-cost hub system to enable neighbours in the developing world to share electricity.
Cheaper and more reliable than the kerosene and stand-alone home solar systems now in use in underserviced areas, that concept ticked all the boxes on their checklist of priorities.
“It had to be something we’d be proud to have our names attached to and that we could work on for a long time,” said Curticapean.
After turning down job offers from the likes of Apple and Tesla, the teammates are pursuing the project full-time, with plans to travel to Tanzania this summer to refine the technology and return for pilot testing next year.
“We really see this changing the world,” said Williams.
In all, 14 teams of graduating engineering students – chosen as finalists from more than 40 applicants - had 90 seconds to explain their fourth-year Capstone Design projects in front of judges and several hundred people at the Sedra Student Design Centre.
The awards are funded by The Esch Foundation to support creative and entrepreneurial students in the pursuit of research and development and its commercialization for the benefit of Canada.