Feel AMPowered Wins First Place with Smartflower Solution at 2021 MIT EnergyHack

Dec 16, 2021

At this year’s 2021 MIT EnergyHack, over 300 engineers and MBA students from around the world gathered virtually and in-person to develop innovative solutions for pressing needs relating to the energy industry and climate change. As a Sustainability Circle sponsor, Smartflower CEO Jim Gordon gave a rousing keynote speech and presented a challenge statement for the hackathon: How can we integrate the Smartflower into the distributed generation plans of utilities across the United States and the world? After 36 hours of hard work, team Feel AMPowered from Northwestern University came in first place with their innovative answer to Smartflower’s challenge statement.



The winning solution? Smartbouquet, a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) model that consists of multiple Smartflowers connected in a true distributed generation and software control plan to meet the needs of utilities and their customers. The team also went into detail about scaling options, shaving peak demand, energy/climate security, potential market opportunities, and how their model would benefit both Smartflower and utilities worldwide.

Claire Miller, Yuan Cheng Chua, Oliver Booth, and Maria Keane met through Northwestern’s Master of Science in Energy and Sustainability (MSES) program and were one of three teams from their university that participated in the hackathon. When taking note of the different challenge statements, they knew that Smartflower was their first choice. “We thought that Smartflower’s challenge statement was something achievable for the time frame we had. We also had prior knowledge from our Master’s program that we could draw on to come up with an interesting, effective, and deployable solution,” said Oliver.

Surprisingly, the team came up with their solution early into the hackathon. They started brainstorming ideas after the Opening Ceremony on Friday night and came up with their solution by lunchtime on Saturday! They then focused on the best way to package and communicate their ideas in a way that would make sense to their audience, with their solution evolving as they went through the process. “We did a full storyboard of our presentation, and it helped make our point clear given the short amount of time we had,” said Claire.

The team attributed their success to their Master of Science in Energy and Sustainability (MSES) program at Northwestern University, which taught them about the ins and outs of the energy and sustainability industry. Guest speakers from different utilities, as well as detailed lessons on sustainability economics and policy, allowed them to understand the challenge question through a sustainability lens. All this led to their winning Smartbouquet model. “This was a great opportunity to apply what we’ve been learning in our program and do something practical with it. It was such a rewarding experience, and I’m so proud of the work we did over such a short period of time,” said Claire.

“This was my first time taking part in a Hackathon,” said Yuan Cheng, “It tested our mental endurances, but it was very fulfilling, and I appreciated the support my teammates gave me.” Indeed, the team had a fruitful time at the 2021 MIT EnergyHack, and they highly recommend it to anyone interested in renewable energy. “It was interesting seeing the different ways of thinking the other teams had, and how they came up with their solutions. We’re so glad to have been part of this event,” said Maria.


Learn more about the 2021 MIT EnergyHack at

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