OU team named finalist in the 2014 Ohio Clean Energy Challenge

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

An Ohio University student team has been named a finalist in the 2014 Ohio Clean Energy Challenge, sponsored by the University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio.

The student team, Archer Technologies, is the brainchild of Ohio University junior Austin Stahl of the Honors Tutorial College (HTC). Stahl is majoring in journalism, and pursuing certificates in entrepreneurship and environmental studies. During summer break, Stahl developed an idea to use solar panels on electric cars as a way to extend range.

With his return to campus in the fall, he recruited team members from the HTC and his entrepreneurship class. The team includes entrepreneurship major Noah Rosenblatt, who brings finance, management, and strategic leadership expertise; Austin Way, an engineering physics major, providing engineering support; Alex Harshaw with media arts and studies and entrepreneurship and Joost Lighart in international business.

“It’s really impressive that the team has made it this far,” said Scott Miller, director of Energy and Environmental Programs at Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs. “They were fighting a number of headwinds. It is a testament to the students’ tenacity, a great skill to have. They’ve all been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, and are learning great skills.”

Some issues included trouble with patents and challenges to technology accessibility.

“The team has been extremely innovative,” said Faith Knutsen, champion for the Challenge at Ohio University and associate director at TechGROWTH Ohio, a public and private partnership administered by the Voinovich School that connects entrepreneurs with resources and support. “They have had three iterations of new business ideas. This third one is based on an exciting collaboration between professors, a local technology company, and these young entrepreneurs.”

The winning idea that garnered Archer Technologies a chance to present at the 2014 Ohio Clean Energy Challenge uses Stirling engines, named after original inventor Robert Stirling, to extend the traveling distance of electric automobiles.

“Through this process, I’ve learned that persistence pays off,” said Stahl. “You’re only as good as your network. Every time we hit a dead end, our mentors would help guide us or put us in touch with different resources.”

According to Knutsen and Miller, Archer Technologies is the first team from Ohio University to participate in the contest.

“It’s really important as a university to demonstrate our support for these students, particularly if we say we support entrepreneurship,” Miller said. “These students are competing against outstanding universities and this has the potential to raise the prominence of Ohio University to encourage others to look at Ohio University as a destination for entrepreneurship, and energy and environmental programs.”

Archer Technologies will compete on Jan. 29 at Cleveland State University for a $10,000 prize. If chosen as the winner, the team would advance to the Midwest regional competition with a prize of $100,000, and potentially the national competition with another $100,000 prize.

“[These students] have epitomized entrepreneurship and flexibility,” said Knutsen. “It’s a real accomplishment for them to have advanced this far.”