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Nov. 20: Carnegie Mellon Engineering Students Win Prestigious Contest Designed To Challenge Presidential Candidates On Energy and Sustainability Issues

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Carnegie Mellon Engineering Students Win Prestigious Contest Designed
To Challenge Presidential Candidates On Energy and Sustainability Issues

PITTSBURGH — Carnegie Mellon University graduate engineering students Shahzeen Attari, Ines Margarida Lima de Azevedo, Benjamin Flath and Constantine Samaras are first-place winners in a letter-writing competition called "Tomorrow's Energy Ambassadors, Managers and Scholars" (TEAMS).

winnersThe contest, sponsored by Johnson Controls Inc., asked students to demonstrate their awareness of important energy and sustainability issues in a letter challenging the current field of presidential candidates to clarify their own positions on these topics. The students' winning letter appears as a full-page ad today in the Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., regional editions of USA Today.

"We challenged the students at more than 200 member schools of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education to draft an open letter to the field of 2008 presidential candidates," said Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability at Johnson Controls, a global leader in integrating technologies and products to create smart environments.

"The letter from Carnegie Mellon students, in particular, demonstrates that this generation is both inspired and impatient. We congratulate them for outlining an informed and timely query to the candidates," he added.

In addition to having its letter published in USA Today, the Carnegie Mellon team will receive a $10,000 check for the school's scholarship fund from Johnson Controls. The team also will receive a $2,500 grant from Johnson Controls and will be invited guests at the 2008 Energy Efficiency Forum, June 10-11 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. 

"We were ecstatic that our team won," said Attari of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. She is a Ph.D. candidate in engineering and public policy and civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon. "Our key message is that this country needs strong leadership to direct us toward a sustainable energy solution that incorporates environmental and social impacts. The United States also can influence other countries, enabling a systematic change that promotes clean energy, conservation and efficiency," Attari said.

"I wasn't expecting it. We put a lot of time and effort into the letter and it paid off," said Flath, a master's degree student majoring in civil and environmental engineering from Scotch Plains, N.J. Other Carnegie Mellon team members included Azevedo, a Ph.D. candidate in engineering and public policy from Lisbon, Portugal, and Samaras, a Ph.D. candidate in engineering and public policy and civil and environmental engineering from Annapolis, Md.

David A. Dzombak, the Walter J. Blenko Sr.  Professor of Environmental Engineering and faculty director of the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research, said the Carnegie Mellon student team has made some insightful observations about what the current crop of presidential hopefuls should be addressing when it comes to America's environmental and energy policies.

"This team of students from different departments, but engaged in interdisciplinary environmental research through the Green Design Institute, demonstrates the importance of bringing multiple perspectives to the complex nexus of environment, energy and policy," said Dzombak, the team's faculty liaison.

All teams had a strict limit of 900 words and were independently judged on their effectiveness in addressing the presidential candidates within the prescribed word limit, awareness of energy and sustainability issues, and creativity and originality of the letter's call to action.

Editors from Newsweek, Industry Week, Environmental Design & Construction, Sustainable Facility, Mission Critical (formerly Energy and Power Management) and Greener World Media judged the top 10 entries which came from Boston University, Duke University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University, University of South Carolina, University of Arkansas, University of Cincinnati, University of Montana and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, in addition to Carnegie Mellon.

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Pictured above (L to R) are: engineering graduate students Benjamin Flath, Constantine Samaras, Ines Margarida Lima de Azevedo, Shahzeen Attari and Professor David Dzombak, a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon and faculty director of the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research.