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USF Team Wins National Clean-Energy Competition

by Annie Breen, USF News

Against more than 70 teams from 31 universities in six countries, four students from USF took first place in the Duke University Energy in Emerging Markets Case Competition.

The RE-Optimizers, a team composed of Maaz Haider ’21, Govinda Hira ’21, and Brittany Blair ’21 of the Energy Systems Management program and Joseph Jweinat MBA ’22 of the School of Management, won the top award —  $7,500 from the Energy Access Project and the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University. They are still waiting to receive the award and aren’t sure what they’re going to use it for.

In the ninth annual competition, held in October and held remotely because of the pandemic, all teams were given this challenge: “Scaling Renewables: A Cleaner Grid and Increased Access for Pakistan,” with a theme of energy affordability and accessibility.

In their presentation, the USF team proposed an extended ecosystem of local partners (micro-financers, community development non-governmental organizations, and mobile payment systems providers) to support electricity service providers and to help the region prosper.

“The Energy System Management program’s focus on real-life challenges meant that we had the necessary tools going into the competition,” Haider said. “While working on the problem, we were fortunate to have access to the faculty’s vast professional experience, which can’t be overstated.”

Haider added that “consulting faculty like Professors Jim Williams and Paul De Martini helped us fine-tune our submission and ultimately take first place.”

From all the entries, five teams went to the final round and three were chosen as award-winners. With their first-place win, the RE-Optimizers established USF as a leader in sustainable energy — and as the school to beat this fall.

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