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Contest sparks innovation to prevent energy curtailments

April 19, 2021 | Jodi Baker | community, industry, public power
Screenshot of the video submission for the OPPD challenge on Find the Why! student contest.

Young people in Nebraska and throughout the country have come up with some innovative ways to cut back on energy usage and prevent the need for energy curtailments in the future. They submitted their solutions as part of the Symphony Workforce Development Corporation’s virtual Find the Why! student contest.

Symphony Workforce, a 501c3 nonprofit, empowers young people by providing them with access to our region’s most dynamic companies and startups, while providing incentive to discover a career path that aligns with who they are at their core. This, in turn, gives employers like OPPD valuable insights to identify, engage and nurture its future workforce.

OPPD student contest

Omaha Public Power District was among several Nebraska employers that sponsored real-world challenges for the contest. They called upon students, ages 13 to 30, to come up with solutions in short, seven-day virtual challenges. The contest for OPPD’s challenge took place March 25-31. A panel of subject matter experts outside the utility determined the winners – six in total. Four of those teams came from Nebraska, one from Kentucky, and one from Texas.

The OPPD challenge asked teams to create a scalable solution for customers to reduce their energy consumption by 10% in a six-hour period during the peak of a high-demand event, like the polar vortex, to prevent the need for forced rolling outages.

Wide-ranging entries

Symphony Workforce accepted entries from within and outside OPPD’s service territory, recognizing the need to not only retain young Nebraska talent, but also to recruit young talent from a nationwide pool.

The responses were imaginative and innovative, with ideas from a smart outlet to prevent energy leaching to a new spin on energy storage.

All students taking part in Find the Why! challenges receive assessments to help them be more self-aware, as well as discover their “why” through solving real business problems from various industry segments of Nebraska. Winners are eligible for cash prize, post-secondary scholarships, or virtual internships.

Below are the winners of OPPD’s challenge. Click the links on the names to view their videos:

  1. I’m so confused – Kentucky
    4 team members
    Cash prize: $1,000
  2. Sanguine Thinkers – Nebraska
    2 team members
    Cash prize: $1,000
  3. The Rocket – Texas
    4 team members
    Cash prize: $400
  4. The Fake Dental Institute – Nebraska
    4 team members
    Cash prize: $400
  5. Et Eo Solo – Nebraska
    1 team member
    Cash prize: $100
  6. Westside Warriors – Nebraska
    3 team members
    Cash prize: $100
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About Jodi Baker

Jodi Baker writes stories and shoots videos for The Wire. Jodi was a television news reporter before she came to work for OPPD as a media specialist in 2013. Jodi earned her degree in broadcasting from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. She's worked for news stations from her hometown of Omaha to sunny San Diego. She’s married with two bright and energetic children (a boy and a girl) and an allergy-ridden little Cairn Terrier. She and her husband enjoy catching up on some grown-up DVR time once the kiddos are asleep.

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