Innovative sustainability challenge open to graduate students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- For the third year, Penn State will participate in the 2014 Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Awards (SISCA). SISCA is designed to promote forward thinking in social and environmental responsibility; while also acknowledging the energy, commitment and enthusiasm of students and their professors who support their innovations. Graduate students and faculty from Penn State are encouraged to join an international field of universities that are involved in the program.

“Responsible stewardship of our planet’s finite resources is central to our tripartite mission of teaching, research and service."

-- Neil Sharkey, interim vice president

of research at Penn State

“Responsible stewardship of our planet’s finite resources is central to our tripartite mission of teaching, research and service. Penn State is committed to the discovery, development and dissemination of technologies and practices that will secure a bright future for generations to come. Layer onto this an incredibly rich pool of talented entrepreneurial students ready, willing and able to tackle the tough global challenges and “voila!” you have the perfect creative environment to do something unique and special that can make a real difference. I am sure that the Dow Challenge will once again shine its spotlight on a number of innovative ideas inspired by good stewardship,” said Neil Sharkey, interim vice president of research at Penn State.

As part of SISCA, student competitors have the opportunity to network with global sustainability thought-leaders and peers, join a reputable network of SISCA alumni, display their work with various external sustainability media and receive monetary prizes. Each finalist team will be given a $1,000 stipend towards the development of a final entry. A $10,000 prize will go to the grand prize team; a $2,500 prize will go to the second place team.

The winning teams will be selected based on high-level criteria that include: potential for solving world challenges in alignment with Dow’s 2015 Sustainability Goals, innovative thinking and excellence in research, and bringing together graduate students across various disciplines at Penn State. Students involved in business, the arts, communications and other areas are encouraged to participate with their ideas or have the option to join a team.

“The unique opportunity that Dow SISCA provides is a whitespace for students to build their capacity for trans-disciplinary approaches through teaming, with true potential for transforming society.”

-- Denice Wardrop, director of Penn State's

Sustainability Institute

“The unique opportunity that Dow SISCA provides is a whitespace for students to build their capacity for trans-disciplinary approaches through teaming, with true potential for transforming society,” said Denice Wardrop, director of Penn State's Sustainability Institute.

Last year’s grand prize winning team’s proposal was titled “Sustainable Desalination and Water Recycling Using Chemical Micropumps in Membrane Systems.” The second place team, GreenTowers, went on to receive additional funding for their projects from the Reinvention Fund and launch a Kickstarter campaign.

This year, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at the third-floor Life Science Bridge, there will be a mixer for students to interact with each other and discuss their ideas and form teams. Or teams can attend to find an additional interdisciplinary member. Members of Green Towers will be on hand to speak about the Dow SISCA challenge and offer advice from their own experiences.

“The interdisciplinary cooperation experiences in the contest are a treasure that would be difficult to gain from anywhere else,” said Yuxi Meng, a 2014 grand prize team member

The 2014 program will close at the end of the fall semester. Important dates to keep in mind are:
-- Aug. 27 – Open for request for proposal submissions
-- Sept. 9 – Team-building mixer
-- Sept. 22 – Proposal submission deadline
-- Sept. 24 to Oct. 7 – Judging
-- Oct. 17 – Five finalist teams announced
-- Nov. 12 – Five finalists present and final judging
-- Dec. 5 – Awards ceremony and announcement of winning teams

The 2014 SISCA program is administered by Penn State’s Sustainability Institute. For more information about the program or to submit your proposal, visit http://sustainability.psu.edu/dowsisca or contact Sharon Hoover, program coordinator at saw132@psu.edu.

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Last Updated August 26, 2014