A way to provide electricity to New York City in the next century garnered a national award for a team of students at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). The “City of the Future” contest sponsored by IBM, The History Channel, and the American Society of Civil Engineers named four NJIT electrical and computer engineering students—“IBM Engineers of the Future.” Winners received $5,000 and four IBM ThinkPad computers.
The contest asked students to imagine parts of New York City in 100 years submerged in knee-high water. Due to global warming, the rivers encircling the city had risen. Sky bridges were built to replace streets.
The students—Latha Singanamalli, East Brunswick; Kiratbir Khurana, Pompton Lakes; Arwa Gheith, Hawthorne and Gian Francisco, Elizabeth—all study electrical and computer engineering at NJIT.
NJIT this spring has also honored this work. In March, Newark College of Engineering at NJIT gave the group a special award in its annual ceremony. A few days later, the group received commendation at the annual Provost’s Research Day.
"As engineering students, we love cutting-edge technology,” said Francisco, the team captain, a graduating senior. “You can’t get more cutting-edge than the technologies we envisioned for this contest.”
The students had five weeks to design a power system for the imagined city under water. A History Channel series, “Engineering an Empire,” inspired the competition. The series focused on ancient empires and their engineering marvels. Competitions were held in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.
The NJIT team competed in New York City against other student teams from the metro region. Solutions the NJIT team suggested included:
• Solar panels would be coated with nano-crystals that, by absorbing the entire light spectrum, would be 80 percent efficient; solar panels now are only 14 percent efficient.
• Solar panels would be installed on sky bridges.
• Solar panels embedded with nano-prisms to refract light directly onto solar cells would be used. Prisms, driven by microscopic MEMs gears, would absorb the sun's rays.
• Superconductive transmission cables would transport electricity from Arizona, now a source of electricity, to New York City. The power would heat and cool commercial and residential buildings.
• Semi-conductive Peltier pumps, which allow heat to be transferred quickly with little power, would also heat and cool buildings.
• Power cars and vehicles equipped with super-capacity electrical batteries to store energy electromagnetically.
“I’m proud of our students for their vision, creativity and intelligence," said Atam Dhawan, PhD, professor and chair of the electrical and computer engineering department at NJIT. “Their plan combined nano-technology and solar power to develop a highly-efficient power generation system. I think their plan was so sound that it could feasibly become a new technology.”
Dhawan noted that his department is filled with students who are passionate about hands-on, team-based projects such as this one. The department also helps students find internships and research projects.