Photo by Noah Bryant

Tech’s Energy Club held their biggest event of the year, the fourth annual Energy Expo­, in the Student Center Ballroom from Feb. 9–10.

The conference and presentation showcase, which featured keynote speakers, Cheryl Martin, Ph.D., and Kenneth Medlock, Ph.D., from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Rice University respectively, was a two-day event that attracted a diverse student population of different majors. The event hosted over 300 attendees, making this year’s Expo the biggest yet.

The 2017 Energy Expo consisted of a documentary screening, four panels, two keynote addresses, a networking opportunity and student showcase.

Dr. Medlock, a Rice University professor and head of the Center for Energy Studies, was the first keynote speaker to talk on the first day of the event. His presentation highlighted the extent of energy crises in different parts of the world, especially in population-dense nations, such as India and China.

Medlock also predicted that 25 years into the future, energy crises are only going to get worse as more nations develop and depend more on technology, such as cars, cellphones and air-conditioning. Despite his daunting statistics, Medlock’s main takeaway was that the solution to the energy problem is to inspire a new generation of scientists to not shy away from tackling the energy crises with innovation.

Before introducing the second keynote speaker, the Energy Club faculty advisor,Dr. Shannon Yee, spoke about the club’s history, citing that he remembers when only “six students but 12 on the roster” came to club meetings. He reminisced on how the club has grown, and congratulated the club members who organized “the signature event for the club.”

Martin, a member of the Managing Board at the World Economic Forum, who has her Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was the second keynote speaker. She took a flight to the United States from Switzerland just to make it to the Expo.

Martin’s address focused on her work in the WEF, including the WEF’s method to approaching problems and other committees and organizations she has spearheaded with the intention of benefiting the environment.

Martin mentioned her global experiences, which included a coalition of African countries moving to sustainable soybean agriculture, an attempt to use only electric cars Jeju Island in South Korea and the initiation of a solar panel project Kazakhstan.

Martin also underscored the importance of cooperation between the private and public sectors in order to make any changes in the energy field. She explained that to make a project
progress, she had to “understand what other people [the public or the private sector] need to move forward.”

Martin concluded her talk by telling her audience to “stop watching the news” so that they can focus on finding the solution to one particular problem.

The last panel concerning energy storage technologies followed Martin’s keynote, and the Energy Expo concluded with a student showcase and showcase awards.

The 2017 Energy Expo boasts eight sponsors, including big names, like Shell and Chevron. In contrast to the Expo, smaller Energy Club events include weekly “energy chats.”

“The Energy Expo is entirely planned and run by students, so the biggest challenge is in getting well-known speakers,” said Akanksha Menon, ME graduate student and co-president of Energy Club. “I definitely want to thank the Georgia Tech Stragetic Energy Institute, our industry sponsors and all the departments on campus that have supported our efforts.”

Menon hopes that the Energy Expo inspires Tech students to tackle the grand energy challenge that our generation faces and develop innovative solutions by interacting with industry experts and policy makers to spur energy-related dialogue.