At the beginning of 2020, six EIT InnoEnergy students began their Industrial Innovation projects, as part of the EIT InnoEnergy Master in Smart Electrical Networks and Systems. The project led them to compete in Odyssey Momentum, one of the world’s leading hackathons.
For any student in the Master’s in Smart Electrical Networks and Systems, the second semester of the first year features an Industrial Innovation Project. It is an opportunity to work with a company or start-up on a technical or commercial problem, acting like consultants. My team and I worked with the R&D department at Vattenfall, a major electric utility in the Nordics.
Vattenfall is working towards fossil free living within one generation. Therefore, they are piloting many projects and exploring various technologies in areas such as renewable energy, energy storage, and decentralised generation. Our project focused on using distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) to validate flexibility commitments from distributed assets.
DLTs include the well-known blockchain technology but also up-and-coming tech such as Hedera Hashgraph, which was the focus of our project. Compared to traditional blockchain technology, Hedera offers higher transaction speeds and improved security, both of relevance to applications in the power grid.
As we developed our testnet over the course of the semester, I added several new skills to my engineering toolbox:
Through Vattenfall, we learned about Odyssey, an annual hackathon that brings together thousands of people to solve complex societal challenges. Intrigued and motivated to further apply our knowledge from the Industrial Innovation project, we applied. After several rounds of interviews, we were accepted to participate in the Energy Singularity, Stream 2 challenge.
Led by Grid Singularity and Engie, the challenge was to design an app that would enable the user to take control of their energy flows, reinventing the way they interact with energy. Our team, Decergy, recruited two students from EIT Digital to complement our skill set and dove right in. Our solution was a social network for trading energy called Litt (you can also read more about our solution and story in another blog post, here).
The hackathon was originally scheduled to be held in Groningen in the Netherlands in early April 2020. However, due to the pandemic, it was moved to November 2020. A talented group of designers spent months building a mass online collaboration arena which reimagined virtual hackathons!
We were the only student team in the track, competing alongside industry specialists, energy experts, and other professionals. This made it a humbling experience, especially considering the positive feedback we received from the jury and jedi. The Odyssey is backed by an ecosystem of governmental, corporate, and non-profit partners who were eager to share their knowledge and expertise, making it a perfect opportunity to network and think about future employment opportunities!
We left the hackathon feeling inspired for what the future of decentralised energy could be. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in the Odyssey Momentum hackathon – and to think it all began from our Industrial Innovation project!
by Emilia Chojkiewicz, EIT InnoEnergy student