Four Fullerton College students had the opportunity of a lifetime to pitch their idea to at the annual MIT’s Solve challenge. Tina Cao, Brent Hamilton, Ian Kolaja and Katherine Vega came together as the team Aeolus’s Breath with a project that addresses the growing concern of greenhouse gases and how to mitigate their negative effects on the environment.
Their solution was chosen as one of 11 finalists to be presented at the Solve at the United Nations Live Pitch Event on March 7.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Solve brings people from around the globe to solve challenges that affect the world from sustainability to health and education issues. The program began in 2015 and currently features two major events, their annual flagship event at MIT and a live pitch event at the United Nations. There are currently four challenge topics: Carbon Contributions, Chronic Diseases, Inclusive Innovation and Refugee Education.
Cao, Hamilton, Kolaja and Vega presented on, “Direct Methane Conversion – Changing Emissions to Graphene and Hydrogen Fuel” as part of the Carbon Contributions challenge.
“As civilization grows, more resources are needed,” said Kolaja. “Something like a catalytic converter in a larger scale could be a part of the solution.”
The team decided to work on handling methane levels and created a low-cost process they named Direct Methane Conversion to convert methane into graphene hydrogen gas on-site. DMC includes four phases: collection of biogas, filtration of methane, conversion of methane and collection of products and the process can be set up in a variety of different environments.
They posit that DMC will reduce the methane emissions that cause greenhouse gasses and global warming. The by-products of DMC will produce graphite, graphene and hydrogen gas, which can be sold. Further, they said that the foundation of the infrastructure and support needs allow for job creation and the DMC process will also increase farm productivity and economic security.
As a result of their entry being chosen into the next round, the group of four pitched their idea at the annual live pitch event at the United Nations in New York City on March 7. They deliver a three-minute presentation of the DMC process and had a Q&A with a live panel of expert judges. The judges for the Carbon Contributions challenge include the Dean of MIT School of Engineering Ian A. Waitz, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Singapore University of Technology and Design Tara Dankel, Head of Global Partnerships, Emerging Markets at YouTube Zack Bongiovanni and more.
To prepare for their presentation, Cao, Hamilton, Kolaja and Vega practiced with FC faculty during their free time for the last two weeks. Faculty have been extremely helpful and supportive giving feedback and providing guidance, they said. Physics Professor Brian Shotwell and chemistry Professor Bridget Salzameda have been serving as their mentors since the beginning of the project. Shotwell has worked with members of the group as a mentor on previous projects and Salzameda provided resources and access to research information.
Although they were not selected to go on to the next round, the team received great feedback from the judges and they were able to make important connections in their fields. They are ready to try again next year with a solidified business model and design.
“You don’t have to be a millionaire or have a Ph.D,” said Katherine Vega. “You just need to have a good idea and the drive to implement it.”
The team’s complete proposal is available online at the MIT Solve website here.