Students bring new energy ideas to competition

By Charles Burke, NARA and Tina Hilding, College of Engineering and Architecture
PULLMAN, Wash. – More than 450 middle and high school students from throughout the Northwest, including first time participants from Oregon, Montana and Idaho, will present their creative solutions to society’s energy challenges at Washington State University’s Imagine Tomorrow competition. 
This year the competition also will add a challenge category specifically focused on biofuels. The other categories are behavior, design and technology.
Thanks to the generosity of sponsors, 119 student teams will compete for more than $100,000 in cash awards for themselves and their schools. The competition is set for Saturday, May 19, in the CUB ballrooms at WSU Pullman.
“We see this expansion to Oregon, Montana and Idaho students as a wonderful opportunity to introduce Washington State University to motivated students throughout the Northwest and provide a regional showcase for their innovative ideas and work,” said David Bahr, co-director for Imagine Tomorrow and director of the WSU School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering.
The competition expansion comes about through support from the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), a broad alliance of private industry and educational institutions led by WSU and supported through a $40 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
NARA aims to develop an aviation biofuels and petrochemical substitutes industry in the Pacific Northwest using residual woody biomass as the feedstock.
“These high-achieving students are the ones who will need to understand our energy challenges and develop the solutions,’’ said Michael Wolcott, co-project director for NARA. “We’re excited about giving them a chance to learn about biofuels, especially, and hopeful to see their great ideas on how they might inspire our work.’’ 
In addition to NARA, more than 40 organizations are sponsoring this year’s event, with significant contributions provided by The Boeing Company, Bank of America, BP and Weyerhaeuser.
More than 100 judges from industry and academia have agreed to score the projects and provide feedback to the students. Each student on the first place team, in each of the four challenge categories, will receive $1,000, and their schools will receive $5,000.
Second through fourth place winners also will receive individual and cash awards for their schools. Additional recognition is provided for:
  • The best projects from newly participating schools in each state’s federal congressional districts
  • Most Innovative
  • Most Likely to Succeed in the Marketplace
  • Global Impact Award
  • Community Impact Award
  • Advisor’s Favorite
In addition, the College of Engineering and Architecture at WSU offers a university scholarship to qualifying Imagine Tomorrow participants.
Project setup begins at noon Friday, May 18, at the WSU CUB ballroom with workshops and demonstrations available to participants. Presentation and judging will be 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday, May 19.
An awards ceremony and free, public keynote address presented by Microsoft Chief Environmental Strategist Rob Bernard will begin at 8 p.m. May 19 at the WSU Beasley Coliseum.

A video highlighting the 2011 event is available for viewing here.  

Web information for Imagine Tomorrow can be found here.     
Web information for NARA can be found here.      
For Imagine Tomorrow:
David Bahr,, 509-335-8654
Grant Norton,, 509-335-6617
Mike Wolcott,, 509-335-6392
Media Contacts:
Charles Burke, NARA Communications and Publicity Director,, 509-335-3018
Tina Hilding, Communications Coordinator, WSU College of Engineering and Architecture,, 509-335-5095

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