BJU team wins $100,000 grant from Musk-funded competition

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BJU team wins $100,000 grant from Musk-funded competition

Benjamin Withrow, Steven Platt, Tricy Yue, Reagan Riddle, Lydia Flynn, Joseph Simpson and Daniel Oyarzun began working on their proposal for the XPRIZE competition in August.
Photo: Roy Rogers

BJU’s Global Challenges team, comprising seven students and four faculty members from different fields, has received a $100,000 grant from the XPRIZE Foundation for a proposal to create a carbon dioxide sensor for climate change research.

BJU was one of 23 winners out of the 195 teams that entered the competition. Other winners included Stanford University, the Indian Institute of Technology and the University of Oxford.

President Steve Pettit announced in chapel on Nov. 10 that the BJU team was one of five university groups to win in the measurement, reporting, and verification technologies category. “We’re very thankful for this, and we give thanks to the Lord for His blessings,” he said.

Lovegrove guided the students as they worked on the project along with Dr. David McKinney, Dr. Adele Dunn and Dr. Brian Vogt.
Photo: Robert Stuber

BJU plans to emphasize more cross-disciplinary teams such as the Global Challenges course in the future. “The interdisciplinary Global Challenges class embodies the kind of learning experiences that we are trying to provide here in the BJU Premium, and that combines biblical thinking, experiential learning and life mentoring,” Pettit said.

Dr. Bill Lovegrove, the project’s primary faculty adviser, said the team will continue working on their project over the next 12 months, using the money to carry out the research in the team’s proposal. One major component of this will be a summer research project on campus funded by the grant. “I am proud of the team and grateful to God for the opportunity to pursue this project and work with these students,” Lovegrove said. “I feel a sense of satisfaction that our hard work on this project was rewarded with success.”

As the team’s engineering faculty member, Lovegrove says the grant shows the strength of BJU’s education and the course’s interdisciplinary approach. “I think this proposal would not have succeeded without a mix of business, engineering and science students,” he said. “All of them contributed their unique skills to the proposal, and that was key to their success.”

Steven Platt, a senior engineering major on the team, was excited to find out they had received the grant. “Now that this has been announced, we have another set of emotions—excited we made it and mentally preparing for continuing on this project,” he said.

Joseph Simpson, a junior business administration major in the Global Challenges course, conducted market research and is working with the business side of the team to create Soil Economy, a company to market the Global Challenges team’s measuring device. “It feels surreal that we won $100,000 along with four of the top schools in the nation,” he said. “This has certainly been the highlight of my junior year.”

Over the summer, Simpson and Reagan Riddle, the other business major on the team, will take the team’s pitch to the European Innovation Academy in Porto, Portugal.

Those interested in following the latest news about Soil Economy’s continued research and development can visit their website, www.soileconomy.com.

The XPRIZE Foundation, a nonprofit that awards grants to encourage innovation to tackle global problems, announced the $100 million competition in April. Elon Musk’s Musk Foundation supported the carbon removal project, which has several stages over four years. The grants from this first round of the competition are meant to fund future participation in the project. More information can be found at www.xprize.org/prizes/elonmusk.