Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development names most innovative ideas for a sustainable future
HOUSTON, TX. – The Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development announced Rice University students Joanna Luo, Wejia Song, and Alexander Yune have clinched the top prize recognizing the most innovative sustainable architectural, chemical, or engineering idea in the U.S. With advising professor Neeraj Bhatia, their winning concept presents a bold solution for oil seekers venturing further and further out to sea to tap dwindling reserves.
Sparked by a Petrobras report outlining the challenges of safely accessing critically-needed offshore oil reserves, “Addressing the Logistical Crisis of Offshore Oil Extraction: A New Model of Water-Based Urbanism in the Pre-Salt Region off the Southeast Coast of Brazil” details the creation of a 600 kilometer-long chain of man-made islands which could sustain a population of 50,000. The population can raise crops, build schools, and drill oil – seeding the growth of a community and making drilling for oil more environmentally, socially, and financially sustainable.
The top prize grants $40,000 in cash, of which the students receive $20,000. $10,000 goes to their advising professor and $10,000 to their university. In addition, the students receive admission to the process to become an Odebrecht Young Partner or Braskem Associate, trainee programs with the global leaders – highly competitive programs sought by students from across the globe.
422 students registered to compete for the prestigious award, representing 40 nationalities and 173 universities across the United States. Currently, the award is also presented in seven other countries.
The winners were unveiled at an Oct. 16, 2012 award ceremony at the Fine Arts Museum in Houston, where Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, gave the keynote speech encouraging curiosity, imagination, passion, creativity, and the ability to see things from multiple points of view as instruments of change. Mayor Annise Parker also addressed the audience, highlighting that Houston too thrives on dreams, from building a port – even though the city is miles away from the ocean – to sending men to the moon. In line with its organizational dedication to sustainability, Odebrecht committed to making the awards ceremony carbon-neutral by purchasing carbon offsets for all the guests’ travels.
“While we were thrilled to see so many young innovators answer the call for the next big idea in sustainability, and certainly expected to see some remarkable concepts, the winners and finalists of the 2012 United States Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development stunned us with unique, promising visions,” said Fernando Musa, CEO of Braskem America.
“These award entries are snapshots of what the future could look like if we handed the reins to these emerging leaders,” said Gilberto Neves, president and CEO of Odebrecht USA. “I have no doubt that we will continue to see great things from these students.”
The projects were judged by a panel of experts in fields ranging from construction, to chemistry, to engineering, to sustainability. The criteria included technical contribution, reasoning and depth, real-world applicability, and adherence to Odebrecht’s multifaceted view of sustainability as a synergy of economic development, social development, environmental balance, political participation, and cultural diversity.
A team from Johns Hopkins University took second place; Jay Hyug Choi, Sangkyun Cho, and Victor Hyun submitted “Pegasus (Paper for Education, Growth, and Sustainability)” with advising professor Erica Schoenberger. For their concept of a small-scale papermaking machine for students in third-world countries, the team won $7,000, as well as $4,000 for their professor and $4,000 to the university.
Third place went to North Carolina State University students Monica Golike, Richard Figueroa, and Nicole Santos, who submitted “Recyclability of Oil Contaminated Cardboard” with advising professor Melissa Pasquinelli. Their paper exploring new ways to recycle the 1.2 billion pizza boxes used in the U.S each year won the students $5,000, with $2,500 going to the professor and $2,500 going to the university. All may enter the process to become Odebrecht Young Partners or Braskem Associates; several students have already applied.
Florida International University representatives Susan Jay and Andres Tremante were also present to receive a special recognition, as three separate groups of students submitted entries that ranked on 4th, 5th, and 6th place.