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Three Winners Claim Top Honors at 2021 Marine Energy Collegiate Competition

Participants Gained Blue Economy Connections and Real-World Experience in the NREL-Managed Competition

April 30, 2021

What does it take to dream up the marine-energy powered technologies of tomorrow? The three winning teams of the 2021 Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC): Powering the Blue Economy™ can tell you.

Managed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), three winners were announced at the MECC award ceremony that occurred in conjunction with the virtual 2021 International Conference on Ocean Energy (ICOE).

Photo of waves crashing on rocks, snowcapped mountains rise in the background.
Winning teams took the MECC by storm. Learn more about their transformative concepts! Photo by Stein Egil Liland, Pexels

Through the MECC, multidisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students are challenged to unlock the power of the ocean, rivers, and tides to create a business plan and develop, design, and test the technologies that build resilient coastal communities and provide power at sea.

Presenting Their Marine-Powered Best

Marine energy holds promise for a broad range of activities across the entire blue economy.

“The diverse collection of 2021 submissions were a testament to marine energy’s vast potential,” said Arielle Cardinal, MECC operations manager at NREL.

Possible submissions ranged from proposals for marine-powered applications for desalination, to offshore marine aquaculture, ocean observation, and other markets including—but not limited to—those identified in DOE’s Powering the Blue Economy report. New to the 2021 competition was the build-and-test segment, which allowed interested teams to put their devices to the test in a tank.

The competition culminated in a written submission and a pitch of teams’ market assessments and detailed technology designs.

The following teams were selected as winners of the 2021 MECC:

  • First-place winner: Purdue University
  • Second-place winner: University of Washington
  • Third-place winner: Virginia Tech with University of California, Los Angeles

Individual category winners included the following:

  • Build and Test Challenge Winners:
    • Build Winner: University of Massachusetts with St. Bonaventure University
    • Test Winner: Oregon State University
  • Community Outreach and Engagement Award: Oregon State University
  • Individual product category winners:
    • Best Pitch: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with St. Bonaventure University
    • Best Poster: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
    • Best Written Report: University of Washington
  • MacGyver Award: University of North Florida
  • Moonshot Award: Institute of Engineering, National Autonomous University of Mexico with Dartmouth College, Autonomous University of Baja California, Autonomous University of Mexico State, National Polytechnic Institute, and University of Caribe

Swimming Toward Tomorrow’s Tech

A central component of the MECC is the hands-on, real-world experience it offers to the participants.

Although few institutions offer marine-specific advanced degrees, gaining experience in the field is highly valuable for prospects within a wide range of blue economy employment opportunities.

“We were impressed and inspired by the ingenuity of the 2021 competitors,” Cardinal said. “If this is any indication of what lies ahead, the future is bright for tomorrow’s marine renewable energy workforce.”

Are you ready to dive in?

The 2022 MECC is now open for applications. Start sketching out those concepts and submit your applications by May 7, 2021.

Help us optimize designs and reduce the costs of these promising marine energy technologies. Take the MECC challenge!

Register for the 2022 MECC and sign up for email alerts to hear the latest.