uc davis mechanical aerospace engineering big ideas startup repurpose energy
Ph.D. candidate and COO Ryan Barr (second from left), associate professor and founder Jae Wan Park (middle) and Ph.D. candidate and CTO Joseph Lacap (second from right) receive their award at the Big Ideas conference in Berkeley.

MAE Energy Startup Wins Big at 2019 Big Ideas Contest

UC Davis mechanical and aerospace engineering startup, RePurpose Energy, won big at the 2019 Big Ideas contest, taking home first place in the Energy and Resources category and winning grand prize at the competition’s Pitch Day.

The Big Ideas contest, a UCOP-supported program that began in 2006, funds, supports and empowers student teams with “big ideas” that solve relevant problems and have the potential to affect social change. Teams can compete in one of eight different categories that span all disciplines, thus opening up the possibility of entrepreneurship to everyone. Winners not only have good, well-rounded solutions, but also have a development plan with concrete next steps.

The program also offers student teams workshops, mentorship and advising throughout the application process to further their ideas and support their career goals.

RePurpose Energy’s “big idea” is repurposing used batteries from electric vehicles (EVs) as energy storage systems for commercial solar developers. At the end of their life in a vehicle, EV batteries still have over 75% of their original capacity. RePurpose runs its own diagnostic system on the batteries to see how well they’re functioning and predict their remaining lifespan before matching them with an appropriate energy system.

Since EV batteries are extremely expensive to recycle, reassembling and reusing them for other applications is cheaper, reduces waste and helps California accomplish its clean energy goals.

RePurpose was founded by associate professor Jae Wan Park and is run and represented by UC Davis Ph.D. candidates Ryan Barr and Joseph Lacap. The team received a total of $20,000 toward helping California achieve its clean energy goals. The team was one of 330 competitors this year, and one of 34 winners.

“The Big Ideas process turned our idea into a plan,” Ph.D. candidate and RePurpose COO Ryan Barr told Big Ideas at Pitch Day. “It challenges participants to develop innovative yet feasible solutions to society’s toughest issues.”

Check out the Big Ideas website for more information and a full list of winners.

Learn more about RePurpose and their vision on their website.

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