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Northwestern University

Past Projects


Technology and Business of Energy Seminar Series

The Technology and Business of Energy (TBOE) Seminar series was a weekly one-hour seminar over the winter and spring quarters designed to give a broad overview of the energy industry from both the technology and business perspective. Each week featured two seminar leaders, one technical and one business, who guided a discussion of a specific energy topic to help a diverse, non-specialist audience understand the intricacies and trends of the modern energy and sustainability industry. The overarching goals were to (1) foster an awareness and basic understanding of energy technologies as a whole, (2) introduce students to current topics in energy technology, (3) provide them with some of the language used to describe and compare different technologies and (4) foster, introduce, and bring together a community of students who are passionate about energy issues.

Jasper in Deadland Theater Production

‘Lover and Madmen Presents Jasper in Deadland’ was a musical produced by Lovers and Madmen that ran for four performances on March 2 and 3. The goal was to make a large scale student theater production that was simultaneously artistically innovative and environmentally sustainable. Jasper in Deadland featured a two-story, fourteen-foot tall set, intense rock-show lighting, and show stopping theatrical effects. Jasper in Deadland can serve as a stepping stone for even more sustainable productions in the future. The producer of Jasper in Deadland, Jonathan Gelb, also plans to implement the same sustainable practices in the next show he will produce in fall 2018.


Real Food at NU (NURF) – Food and Friends Event

Food and Friends was a large scale demonstration of the power of sustainably and ethically sourced food. Besides coming together to appreciate delicious food, this event was about encouraging dialogue about the role of food in our lives, and our role in the food system. NURF brought in two speakers during the event to talk about the Evanston food system and how we can all change the food system to positively impact people, animals, and the earth. By supporting local farms, food businesses, and sustainable producers, NURF directly contributed to building a more sustainable economy and food system. NURF expects the connections made and discussions had will lead to further collaboration and work on food sustainability in the greater Illinois region.


NUSolar is the solar car design and racing team at Northwestern. The Sustainability Fund grant provided for the purchase of wheels, tires, and solar cells for the construction of the car. The mission of the team is to challenge student engineers with creating a sustainable design and managing construction and execution of the car.

House by Northwestern

House By Northwestern was Northwestern’s entry in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon. The members of this undergraduate student organization worked together to design and construct a home that is solar-powered and energy efficient. Northwestern’s team was one of 16 teams selected internationally for submission to the competition. The students partnered with industry professionals to learn how to best put their ideas in motion. The grant provided for ten of the students to stay during the summer to research and test models for the house. The team won first place in market potential and communications at the competition and took sixth place overall.


One Earth Film Festival

These students brought the One Earth Film Festival to Northwestern’s campus. The group hosted a screening of the film “Banking Nature,” about how the environment has been degraded by companies for profit. The screening was attended by about 60 people from Northwestern and the broader community. The event featured a discussion of the issues addressed in the film.

Design For America Coffee Thermoses

These students organized an initiative to promote awareness of disposable coffee cup waste and encourage students to #BYOT (bring your own thermos). They achieved this by organized three Free Coffee Days in the spring quarter of 2016. The students gave out free coffee to students who brought a thermos and gave out 74 free thermoses to students. Their initial analytics after one week showed that out of 43 people surveyed, the thermoses had been used 143 times, and had lasting potential to decrease coffee cup waste on campus.

ESW Summer Incubator

The summer incubator program funded an Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW) project to organize two weeks of new programs focused on recruiting new members and planning for the next year. TrackNU was formed to track energy usage on campus, and ESW used the incubator to begin designing an app that will track students’ carbon dioxide usage among other measurements. The goal of the app is to aid in the university’s monitoring of data that will aid in developing sustainability strategies for the campus. The second program to come out of the project was BeeSW, a new beekeeping society on campus. Over the two weeks, the students met with a beekeeper, researched hives, and held a meeting to gain interest in the new club.

MEM Grad Student Microgrid

These graduate students from the Master’s in Engineering Management program assessed the campus and developed recommendations on installing a microgrid. This grid can be used as a backup system for electrical power and could power the entire university. The group analyzed energy use and efficiency at three points on campus to determine whether this system would be a good addition to the university.


COP21 Documentary

This group of students attended the COP21 Paris Climate Conference to make a short film on youth activists. These students worked closely with the Malaysian Youth Delegation, a group of five young people who were the first to attend a climate conference from their country. The filmmakers also interviewed other climate activists and negotiators at the conference. The students hope to raise awareness surrounding climate injustice and the relationship of the United Nations in climate change policy. The filmmakers worked with campus student organizations to host a screening of the finished film, Voices Not Heard, the Climate Fight of Malaysian Youth, on campus in November, 2017.

Wild Roots Panel

These students organized a panel entitled “Ethical Eating for the College Student.” Experts on ethical food production and other related fields were brought in to speak about the issues and the effects of making food choices that aren’t harmful to the environment. The goal was to inform students, who for the first time are making decisions on grocery shopping and eating at restaurants, on how to choose food that is ethical-sourced and produced. This panel was attended by around 40 students who gave positive feedback on the event.

ESW Hydroponics

These students’ project was to create a hydroponics system to be implemented on Northwestern’s campus. It is an effort of the student organization Engineers for a Sustainable World (ESW). This method of growing plants is sustainable and has a higher resource efficiency than traditional soil planting. The students have already effectively created an ebb and flow hydroponic system at a low cost, and they had success in growing basil and chard over the summer of 2016. Their future goals are to create a hydroponics plant maintenance guide, create a “food computer” to track and adjust the system, and implement this project on campus through partnerships with groups such as GREEN House and Wild Roots.

Amper Technologies

The goal of this project is to track energy use at the university in a way that would provide data immediately. The students planned to design a system that would track energy use in order to give recommendations for energy conservation, as well as show wasted energy. The technology would give useful insight on utilities for facilities management and lead to lower energy use on campus.

NU Scope

These students organized two speaker events for the Northwestern campus and Evanston community. The group hosted experts on urban sustainability and transportation sustainability to encourage students and community members to be involved in and aware of the issues surrounding sustainability in these fields. The students were able to appeal to a diverse group of Northwestern students as well as some Evanston residents.

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