The MIT Energy and Climate Hack brought together participants from myriad fields and disciplines to develop rapid, innovative solutions to one of the most complex challenges facing society today: the global energy and climate crisis. Hundreds of students from MIT and colleges across the globe convened on MIT’s campus and virtually for this year’s event, which was held Nov. 10-12.
Established in 2013, the MIT Energy and Climate Hack has been the launchpad for innovative and sustainable solutions for a decade; an annual reminder that exciting new ideas are always just around the corner.
According to Claire Lorenzo, an MIT student organizer and communications director for this year’s Energy and Climate Hack, “There were a lot of people from a lot of places who showed up; both virtually and in person. It was encouraging to see how driven everyone was. How passionate they were about finding great solutions. You could see these ideas starting to form immediately.”
On the first day, representatives from companies across numerous industries presented participants with their most pressing energy and climate-related challenges. Once the gathering broke into teams, participants had two days to “hack the challenge” they were assigned and present their solution to company representatives, fellow hackers, and judges.
The focus areas at this year’s event were energy markets, transportation, and farms and forests. Participating corporate sponsors included Google, Crusoe, Ironwood, Foothill Ventures, Koidra, Mitra Chem, Avangrid, Schneider Electric, First Solar, and Climate Ledger.
This year’s event also marked the first time that artificial intelligence emerged as a viable tool for developing creative climate solutions. Lorenzo observed, “I’m studying computer science, so exploring how AI could be harnessed to have a positive impact on the climate was particularly exciting for me. It can be applicable to virtually any domain. Like transportation, [with emissions] for example. In agriculture, too.”
Energy and Climate Hack organizers identified the implementation of four core AI applications for special consideration: the acceleration of discovery (shortening the development process while simultaneously producing less waste), optimizing real-world solutions (utilizing automation to increase efficiency), prediction (using AI to improve prediction algorithms), and processing unstructured data (using AI to analyze and scale large amounts of data efficiently).
“If there was a shared sentiment among the participants, it would probably be the idea that there isn’t a singular solution to climate change,” says Lorenzo, “and that requires cooperation from various industries, leveraging knowledge and experience from numerous fields, to make a lasting impact.”
After the initial round of presentations concluded, one team from each challenge advanced from the preliminary presentation judging session to the final presentation round, where they pitched their solutions to a crowded room of attendees. Once the semi-finalists had pitched their solutions, the judges deliberated over the entries and selected team Fenergy, which worked in the energy markets sector, as the winners. The team, consisting of Alessandro Fumi, Amal Nammouchi, Amaury De Bock, Cyrine Chaabani, and Robbie Lee V, said, “Our solution, Unbiased Cathode, enables researchers to assess the supply chain implications of battery materials before development begins, hence reducing the lab-to-production timeline.”
“They created a LLM [large language model]-powered tool that allows innovative new battery technologies to be iterated and developed much more efficiently,” Lorenzo added.
When asked what she will remember most about her first experience at the MIT Energy and Climate Hack, Lorenzo replied, “Having hope for the future. Hope from seeing the passion that so many people have to find a solution. Hope from seeing all of these individuals come so far to tackle this challenge and make a difference. If we continue to develop and implement solutions like these on a global level, I am hopeful.”
Students interested in learning more about the MIT Energy and Climate Hackathon, or participating in next year’s Hack, can find more information on the event website.