Energy and the Environment: Design and Innovation (2018-2019)


To explore the breadth of issues that confront our society in its need for clean, affordable and reliable energy, students partner with faculty on a year-long project resulting in prototypes of new energy technologies, systems or approaches.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project involves identifying, designing and prototyping new energy technologies, systems or approaches. Last year’s team focused on the potential of incorporating green building concepts into college dorms; alternative use cases for flywheel energy storage; and renewable microgrids in South Africa. Previous projects have included a strategy proposal for encouraging growth in the hydrogen economy, a human-powered bicycle to filter urban water systems, electric and solar-powered vehicles, a biogas-powered generator and a green emergency power system.

Sub-teams will address the tradeoffs among technological design choices, environmental impacts, economic viability and other issues related to use. The goal of the project is to produce a useful prototype and evaluate its environmental benefits and viability. Projects will be selected and defined during the fall semester and completed during the spring semester.

While some sub-teams may concentrate on building a physical prototype, alternatives that include statistical analysis, mathematical modeling or computer simulation are also possible. Ideas for projects will come from students, with input from faculty, companies, organizations or competitions.

Anticipated Outcomes

Prototypes (physical or conceptual) and accompanying evaluation of environmental and social benefits, target market and basic business plan; presentation of results in the form of poster session as well as class presentations and final report

Student Opportunities

The team will likely be comprised of 15-20 students, forming sub-teams of 5-7 students working on projects of their choice. Approximately three graduate students are sought as project managers for the sub-teams. Undergraduate backgrounds could include environmental sciences and policy, engineering, public policy, economics, chemistry, earth science or international studies; however, students in all majors are welcome to apply. This course also fulfills the capstone for the undergraduate Certificate in Energy and Environment, as well as the senior project for some engineering majors.

See examples of previous projects.

Duke undergraduates and graduate students can apply for this project team beginning on January 24. The priority deadline is February 16 at 5:00 p.m.


Fall 2018 – Spring 2019 

  • Fall 2018: Select and define projects; form sub-teams
  • Spring 2019: Complete prototypes and evaluation of environmental benefits and viability; submit final report; present results


Independent study credit available for fall (half credit) and spring (full credit) semesters; this project also satisfies the capstone project course for the undergraduate Certificate in Energy and the Environment

See earlier related team, Energy and the Environment: Design and Innovation (2017-2018).

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Emily Klein, Nicholas School of the Environment-Earth and Ocean Sciences*
Josiah Knight, Pratt School of Engineering-Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science*

* denotes team leader


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