Odebrecht Award for sustainble development announces 2014 winners from Texas A&M University

Philadelphia, Pa. (September 25, 2014) - A team of students from Texas A&M University has won the 2014 Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development. The winners were unveiled on September 23, 2014 at an award ceremony at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. The top award received $40,000, second place was awarded $15,000, and third place was awarded $10,000. All winnings will be split among the students, advising professor, and the school. Also, all finalists received a piece of sustainability of their own: a trophy produced with Braskem's green plastic, which is made from sugarcane and 100% recyclable.

Texas A&M students Victoria Ehlinger, Samarpita Roy, Jeremy Seidel, and advising Professor Mark Holtzapple, submitted a project that introduces a process that uses 67% of municipal solid waste from landfills to profitably produce gasoline and recycled metals. The project titled "Production of Gasoline from Municipal Solid Waste by Carboxylate Fermentation," illustrates a four step process that reduces landfill space, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, creates jobs, and helps meet increasing demand for liquid transportation fuels using the organic component of water stream, which is typically discarded by recycling companies.  

Second place was awarded to Florida International University students Sami Awad Azrak, James Caraballo, Yonatan Rotenberg, and advising Professor Bilal El-Zahab with "Sprayable Solar Panel as Sustainable Low Cost and Disaster Relief Energy Source." Their submission introduced a sprayable design for dye-sensitized solar cells that can be applied on site to existing transparent surfaces and is viable and replicable on a broad scale. This new form of dye-sensitized solar cells is more compact, lightweight, and contains no fragile materials making shipments to remote places more affordable. 

Third place was awarded to Rice University students Brian Barr, Max Hasbrouck, Kivani Sanchez, and advising Professor Matthew Wettergreen. Their submission, "A GPS-Enabled Three-Bike Rack to Connect Communities in the Developed and Developing World," outlines a plan to increase bus-bike ridership by improving the capacity and transparency of bus-bike rack usage with a GPS-based, collapsible three-bike rack. The collapsible three-bike rack, increases the number of buses on which three bikes can be transported at the same time without impeding the driver's operation. Also, it will have a bike sensor that increases the information available to commuters, allowing them to better plan out and orchestrate their use of public transit systems.

A number of teams from multiple U.S. colleges and universities competed for top honors in the nationwide search for innovative technologies and methods to promote sustainable and responsible development.

Finalists were selected by two groups of judges comprised of Odebrecht USA and Braskem America professionals and an external committee consisting of eight experts from several sustainability fields. Projects were judged on their practicality, applicability, technical aspects, content, reasoning, clarity and presentation.

The ceremony's keynote speaker was Andrew Winston, the founder of Winston Eco-Strategies. He is also the author of The Big Pivot, Green Recovery, and co-author of Green to Gold. Winton's remarks were valuable insights on how business can profit by tackling the world's largest challenges.

Also speaking at the ceremony, was the Honorable Congressman Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania. The recurring theme for the evening was innovation shaping the trends of the future towards more sustainable and responsible development.

This was the third edition of the Odebrecht Award in the United States, open to all public and private colleges and universities. Florida International University and Rice University have participated and been winners in previous editions of the competition. 

For more information about the program, past winners and their ideas, please visit