Inherent Sustainability

A team of Western Washington University industrial design, business, chemistry and electrical engineering majors—known as Nova Solar Glazing—has won the $15,000 Wells Fargo grand prize at the 2017 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC). The students were honored by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee for developing an insert for regular glass windows that converts them into energy-producing solar windows. “Costs of the new sources of energy, thankfully, are coming down very quickly, in part because of the great technological strides that are [made] in our state,” says the governor.

The students, including ID majors Emily Bartlett and Edward Hanko, worked with research by WWU's Advanced Materials Science and Engineering Center on luminescent solar concentrators for the challenge, which featured almost two dozen teams and more than 170 judges and was hosted by the University of Washington's Burke Center for Entrepreneurship. The WWU team was the first one to win this competition that was not from the University of Washington.

“It was inspiring to see professionals like investors and developers react with so much enthusiasm about our project,” says Bartlett, the team leader and ID senior who served as president of the IDSA Student Chapter in her jurnior year. “At the EIC, the team was able to talk about the final product and overall vision of our solar window, which was really validating to our efforts after spending months developing individual components.”

The team hopes to start large-scale testing of the product by installing the windows locally. “Our overall goal is to make sustainability invisible. We want every building to have this sustainable energy producing capability so that nobody even has to think about. It should just be inherent,” Bartlett says.

Hanko, another industrial design senior, adds, "Design to me is art but with a profound sense of logic and purpose. When my design work is looked and handled, and an individual sees logic and beauty and it all makes sense to them, then I feel intensely satisfied. It's that sense of satisfaction that pushed me and continues to push me to design."

Bartlett shares her path to ID. "I was scrolling through majors and read through the course requirements for this mysterious 'industrial design' major listed among other engineering majors," she explains. "The combo of art, physics, engineering and design courses fit exactly the classes I hoped to take in college! And when I took my first ID studio class as a sophomore, I was hooked. I knew I was meant to be industrial designer."

See more on KGMI News and in Western Today.

Professor Arunas Oslapas, IDSA, is the faculty adivsor to the IDSA Student Chapter at WWU; Associate Professor Sang-Gyeun Ahn, IDSA, is the faculty advisor to the IDSA Student Chapter at UW.