UIC students compete in ComEd innovation contest

Students in front of CADA

Hamsel De La Cruz (from left), Steve Krejcik and Peter Graff are finalists in a ComEd contest.


A team of three UIC students is among the top five finalists in ComEd’s Student Innovation Contest.

Peter Graff, Hamsel De La Cruz and Steve Krejcik — juniors in industrial design — will present to a panel of industry leaders and entrepreneurs Thursday for a chance to win a $10,000 prize. Contest participants must design an app, product or business plan to help motivate ComEd customers to save energy.

“We are very excited to participate because it lets us know that we’re on the right track and that our design work is making progress,” Cruz said. “Being able to compete against other schools lets us know that we’re competing at a high standard. Most other competitors are grad students.”

The students were inspired to compete after their professor, Stephen Melamed, suggested they enter the competition to keep their minds sharp over the summer. “I think we all feel very confident in our abilities and we’re ambitious,” Cruz said.

All contest entries incorporate ComEd’s Smart Meter, which gives consumer energy usage on demand. ComEd plans to have the device installed on all customer homes and businesses by 2015. “We set out to develop a product and or system that motivated the lower-income consumer to be more aware of their energy consumption and create better energy consumption habits,” Krejcik said.

Their idea is a device called Pulsar that connects the Smart Meter app to a light switch in your home. The greater the energy usage, the faster the light on the switch pulsates. If you consume an excess amount of energy, the light switch flashes red; if you consume little energy, it flashes green. Krejcik calls Pulsar “a human face for Com Ed’s new smart-meter grid network.”

The students credit their coursework with helping them succeed in the competition.

“The School of Design has a strong academic approach that feeds off philosophies more than technical abilities,” Graff said. “It’s meaningful with research backing it, real-world knowledge, and a frame of reference. It gives so much more validity to our ideas.” 

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