HOUSTON, TX -- (Marketwire) -- 10/17/12 -- Last night, the Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development announced Rice University students Joanna Luo, Wejia Song, and Alexander Yune have clinched the top prize recognizing the most innovative sustainable idea in the U.S. With advising professor Neeraj Bhatia, their winning concept presents a bold solution for oil seekers venturing further and further out to sea to tap dwindling reserves.
Sparked by a Petrobras report outlining the challenges to safely access critically-needed offshore oil reserves, "Addressing the Logistical Crisis of Offshore Oil Extraction: A New Model of Water-Based Urbanism in the Pre-Salt Region off the Southeast Coast of Brazil" details the creation of a 600 kilometer-long chain of man-made islands which could sustain a population of 50,000. The population can raise crops, build schools, and drill oil -- seeding the growth of a community and making drilling for oil more environmentally, socially, and financially sustainable.
The top prize grants $40,000 in cash, of which the students receive $20,000. $10,000 goes to their advising professor and $10,000 to their university. In addition, the students receive admission to the process to become an Odebrecht Young Partner or Braskem Associate, trainee programs with the global leaders -- highly competitive programs sought by students from across the globe.
422 students registered to compete for the prestigious award, representing 40 nationalities and 173 universities across the United States. Currently, the award is also presented in seven other countries.
The winners were unveiled at an Oct. 16, 2012 award ceremony at the Fine Arts Museum in Houston, where Nicholas Negroponte, founder of One Laptop per Child, gave the keynote speech calling for measuring curiosity, imagination, passion, creativity, and the ability to see things from multiple points of view. Mayor Annise Parker also addressed the audience, highlighting that Houston too thrives on dreams, from building a port -- even though the city is miles away from the ocean, to sending men to the moon. In line with its organizational dedication to sustainability, Odebrecht committed to making the award ceremony carbon neutral by purchasing carbon offsets for all the guests' travel arrangements.
"While we were thrilled to see so many young innovators answer the call for the next big idea in sustainability, and certainly expected to see some remarkable concepts, but the winners and finalists of the 2012 United States Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development stunned us with unique, promising visions," said Fernando Musa, CEO of Braskem America.
"These award entries are snapshots of what the future could look like if we handed the reins to these emerging leaders. I have no doubt that we will continue to see great things from these students," said Gilberto Neves, president and CEO of Odebrecht USA.
The projects were judged by a panel of experts in fields ranging from construction to chemistry, and engineering to sustainability. The criteria included technical contribution, reasoning and depth, real-world applicability, and adherence to Odebrecht's multifaceted view of sustainability as a synergy of economic development, social development, environmental balance, political participation, and cultural diversity.
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