The laureates of the ECOinnovators competition were announced. Jan Kostecki from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Robotics is the best ECOinnovator among all students. Honourable mentions in special categories went to Ewa Szczepanik from the Faculty of Materials Science and Ceramics and two student research clubs: AGH Solar Plane and Eko-Energia AGH.
Jan Kostecki is a student of Mechatronic Engineering. For nearly 10 years, he has been pursuing his technological passions related primarily to robotics, building systems, and algorithms. When he started his studies at the AGH UST, he wanted to be involved in a project that is directly linked to the development of modern green energies. This is how he ended up in the then-nascent AGH Solar Plane Student Research Club. In addition to the collective ideas of the team members, he has been working on his individual project called Dodo, that is, a solar plane with a neural controller. The wings of the plane are equipped with photovoltaic installations, and its heart is an artificial intelligence-based controller. The algorithm he created was tasked with optimising the flight track in terms of energy consumption, considering, for instance, the tilt angle of the wings relative to the Sun. Jan Kostecki has his successes in other pro-ecological competitions. The teams he was part of participated in various competitions, the tasks of which revolved around data analysis and public transport optimisation in Rybnik (Silesia), an energy optimisation system for a single-family home, an indoor energy storage cell in the form of a battery of an electric car, and an energy transformation application for Zduńska Wola that was to encourage citizens to switch to more eco-friendly heating sources. Jan Kostecki believes that the development of ecology and green solutions is, to a large extent, connected to the local and global awareness of the issue.
Ewa Szczepanik is passionate about biomaterials and composites; she is the chairperson of the Ceramit Student Research Club; she leads research projects with the support of the Polish Cluster of Composite Technologies. She sees herself as an innovator, and she tries to approach materials from a different angle, draw from them things that others had discarded, and find such properties, which will allow her to introduce them to the circular economy. The most important projects she has worked on include alternative methods of creating packaging and cutlery. A different project that she is involved in is a team effort of the Ceramit Student Research Club and focuses on a biodegradable beverage carton to replace the multi-layer paper and polymer ones. The idea is to make them quickly decompose in the environment, thereby eliminating the difficult recycling process. Her alternative to plastic cutlery was made of used coffee grounds. This is a project that the student works on in cooperation with a private company. Ewa Szczepanik also studies waste sheep wool, which could be used to make thermal insulation panels. In addition to her projects and research work, she has been involved in popularising and disseminating knowledge among children and teenagers.
Eko-Energia AGH Student Research Club has been associated with the Faculty of Energy and Fuels since 2007. Its three main areas of expertise focus on renewable energy sources, modern power technologies, and pro-ecological education. Members of Eko-Energia AGH have implemented nearly 30 projects, the following two being their most spectacular achievements:
The achievements of the club and its members encompass 18 scientific publications, 35 conference presentations, and 9 grants. Their projects have been the topic of numerous engineering and master’s theses. The activity of Eko-Energia AGH was noticed and recognised in academic circles, which is corroborated by the high ranks in Polish competitions for student research clubs. The club members organise internal and external training sessions in mechanics, material strength, and constructions; they participate in science fairs and conferences; they popularise eco-friendliness and educate the youngest about ecology.
AGH Solar Plane Student Research Club has been building solar planes for years, with batteries that can be recharged during flight using power obtained from solar cells placed on their wings. The most spectacular achievements of AGH Solar Plane from the last two years include: a patent application related to the solar cell lamination technology, a system for air quality tests using a solar plane, the construction of the Foton solar plane, participation in international competition in Turkey, as well as recognised international conferences. The most important projects of AGH Solar Plane include: the Foton solar plane, a research stand for measuring solar cells, and air quality monitoring. All their flying machines are made entirely of composites (wings, fuselage), which minimises air resistance and maximises flight duration. For all of their solar planes, the members of the club find pro-ecological applications. Their aircraft projects are equipped with monitoring systems which use sensors to test the composition of air or smoke levels, measuring the contents of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and sulphur oxides.
The organiser of the ECOinnovators competition is the Institute of Sustainable Energy, co-funded by the Ministry of Education and Science. The goal is to select student research clubs and students that excel in their pro-ecological academic and organisational activity.