February 28, 2020
By Rachel Steere
UC Davis electrical engineering students Veronica Contreras and Michelle Acoba placed second in the International District Energy Association’s (IDEA) Campus Energy Student Video Contest.
The annual contest, which began in 2012, challenges students from IDEA member institutions to create a short video featuring their campus energy plant including district energy, combined heat and power and microgrids. The contest’s primary goal is to enhance general awareness among students on how their institutions’ district energy systems and operators provide reliable, economic, efficient and environmentally sound means of heating, cooling and power to their campuses.
Contreras and Acoba focused their video on the Big Shift. The Big Shift is a UC Davis initiative to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, while immediately decreasing our energy and water use. This is a part of the larger UC-wide Carbon Neutrality Initiative to become carbon neutral by 2025.
“When we found out we won second place, it was super exciting since it was the first time UC Davis had entered the contest. It was amazing to see that our project won an award,” said Acoba. “Attending the IDEA conference in Colorado to accept the award was also a once-in-a-lifetime experience where I got to learn about other campuses’ approach to saving energy and network with people in industry.”
Throughout the project, Contreras and Acoba collaborated with UC Davis staff to find out more about the Big Shift initiative and then incorporated these ideas into their video to showcase the project and how it will make a large impact on campus.
“UC Davis is working hard to reach net zero carbon emissions and since Michelle and I are working on some of these projects in our internship, we figured it was a fun way to do something a little different and share our knowledge about what UC Davis is doing to work toward carbon neutrality,” said Contreras. “We wanted to keep the video entertaining while educating our campus community about this huge upcoming project.”
Even though Contreras is graduating this year, they hope to continue entering the contest in the future to show UC Davis’ energy conservation efforts.
Contreras and Acoba currently work as interns in facilities management under campus energy manager Joshua Morejohn and both have contributed to the Big Shift and the Small Workplace Automation and Remote Monitoring (SWARM) project. SWARM aims to install smart thermostats in smaller buildings that are not connected to the campus central control system to provide remote visibility, enhance and streamline scheduling and enable Facilities Management to better troubleshoot issues.
“Over the course of my internship, I have learned so much about energy and I’ve looked into how I could use my energy-related knowledge in electrical engineering. After graduation, I plan to start graduate school and since I am so passionate about making a difference in this field, I hope to center my future Ph.D. thesis on an energy-related project,” said Contreras.