Student startup NovoMoto places among top teams in DOE national competition

// Engineering Physics, Materials Science & Engineering

Tags: Cleantech University Prize, Democratic Republic of the Congo, DOE, EP, graduate student, MS&E, NovoMoto, solar energy, startups

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NovoMoto—an innovative startup co-founded by two University of Wisconsin–Madison engineering graduate students—won third place and $20,000 in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2016 Cleantech University Prize National Competition on June 23, 2016.

Aaron Olson and Mehrdad Arjmand, NovoMoto co-founders and PhD students in engineering mechanics, competed against 20 other semifinalist teams in the national competition, which was held at Metropolitan State University of Denver. The teams pitched their clean energy commercialization plans to a panel of judges, vying for $100,000 in prizes.

NovoMoto co-founders Aaron Olson (left) and Mehrdad Arjmand. NovoMoto hopes to help DRC villagers light their homes with battery-powered LED bulbs rather than kerosene lamps, which provide dim lighting and can contribute to respiratory illness.
NovoMoto co-founders Aaron Olson (left) and Mehrdad Arjmand. NovoMoto hopes to help DRC villagers light their homes with battery-powered LED bulbs rather than kerosene lamps, which provide dim lighting and can contribute to respiratory illness.

NovoMoto’s MicroPlant technology aims to provide communities in sub-Saharan Africa—particularly the 59 million people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who use kerosene to meet their lighting needs—with renewable, sustainable electricity. NovoMoto provides an affordable alternative to kerosene by incorporating solar power technology, control and monitoring software and local partners to deliver reliable electricity to Congolese homes.

Olson and Arjmand, who is a member of the Computational Materials Group in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, will use the prize money to complete a prototype. They are returning to the DRC in summer 2016 to assemble the first NovoMoto solar power kiosk.

The Cleantech University Prize aims to inspire the next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs and innovators by providing them with competitive funding for business development and commercialization training and other educational opportunities.

In April 2016, NovoMoto won $90,000 in the Clean Energy Trust Challenge, a startup contest billed as the “largest single-day clean energy pitch competition in the nation.”