The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today opened applications for the second annual Hydropower Collegiate Competition (HCC) and fifth annual Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC). These two competitions help undergraduate and graduate students prepare for jobs in hydropower, marine energy, and related industries by challenging them to develop unique solutions to advance these technologies.

Hydropower and marine energy are versatile, reliable sources of renewable energy that will play key roles in meeting the Biden administration’s goals of a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035 and a net-zero-emissions economy by 2050. To meet these goals, these industries will need a new generation of qualified workers to fill many different roles, including engineers, financial analysts, project managers, and communications and marketing specialists.

Hydropower Collegiate Competition

The 2024 HCC asks multidisciplinary teams to develop solutions to add power-generating infrastructure to existing non-powered dams. Notably, less than 3% of the nation’s more than 90,000 dams produce electricity.

Teams will compete in three required challenges and one optional challenge:

  1. The Siting Challenge, where teams select an existing, non-powered dam for conversion.
  2. The Design Challenge, where teams either create a conceptual design for their selected hydropower conversion site or design a component or system related to the development of their selected site.
  3. The Community Connections Challenge, where teams conduct outreach with the hydropower industry and their local communities.  
  4. The Optional Build and Test Challenge, where teams build and test a scaled prototype of their hydropower conversion site, component, or system. The scores teams receive in this category will not contribute toward the scoring for the competition’s overall first-, second-, and third-place prizes.

Marine Energy Collegiate Competition

The 2024 MECC asks multidisciplinary teams to develop solutions for ways marine energy can help power the blue economy.

Teams will compete in four challenges:

  1. The Business Plan Challenge, in which teams identify a promising blue economy market and determine the best marine energy application to address within that market.
  2. The Technical Design Challenge, in which teams design a marine energy-powered device to serve consumers within the team’s chosen market.
  3. The Build and Test Challenge, in which teams build and test a scaled prototype of their concept.
  4. The Community Connections Challenge, in which teams conduct outreach activities to educate their communities about marine energy.

The 2024 HCC and MECC teams will be eligible for an initial cash prize purse to support their competition activities. The teams will then compete for overall first-, second-, and third-place awards as well as awards for each of the individual challenges mentioned above.

Supported by DOE’s Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO), the HCC and MECC strive to engage students with a wide range of skills, experiences, and perspectives. The two competitions have so far engaged a combined total of 14 minority-serving institutions, including Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities, as well as 13 international schools.

HCC and MECC offer students the chance to engage with leaders of marine energy and hydropower companies and learn about the sector from industry insiders. Industry members have played an important role in the success of these competitions by providing educational presentations, serving as judges during the final events, and networking with students to offer career advice and make connections that helped them land jobs.

Competition organizers encourage undergraduate and graduate students from post-secondary institutions—including colleges, universities, community colleges, and trade schools—to apply. Both U.S. and non-U.S. institutions can apply, but only U.S. institutions are eligible to receive WPTO funding. Partnerships between U.S. and non-U.S. institutions are welcomed.

Interested teams can apply through the HCC and MECC websites. Applications for both competitions are due April 24, 2023.

As DOE begins accepting applications for the 2024 HCC and MECC, the 2023 teams are gearing up for their competitions’ final events. Ten teams will compete in the HCC, and 19 teams will compete in the MECC at the combined final event during Waterpower Week 2023 in Washington D.C. The 2023 HCC and MECC final event activities will begin on May 7 and close with the award ceremony on May 9.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) manages the HCC and MECC on behalf of WPTO. The Hydropower Foundation also administers the HCC in partnership with NREL.

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Learn more about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers and workforce development opportunities on the Hydropower STEM Portal and Marine Energy STEM Portal.

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