Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin

UT PGE students are skilled engineers, but they are also talented entrepreneurs.

UT PGE juniors Karan Jerath and Himchand Persad  are an ambitious duo, partnering with UT Austin’s Energy Institute and the United Nations Envoy on Youth to launch the university’s inaugural Energy Olympiad. It is an ideas-pitch competition for energy-related projects and technologies.  

“Young people have ideas for solutions to problems they want to see solved,” Jerath said. “We are hoping this competition will bring together energy leaders and youth and allow them to discuss what they want to see in the future.”

In early 2018, project submissions from high school and college students across Texas will be evaluated by a committee of leading UT Austin faculty and industry experts. Olympiad finalists will come to campus during the 2018 Energy Week in February to pitch their ideas to angel investors, venture capitalists and distinguished energy leaders.

“Energy is one of the world’s most fundamental problems,” said Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute. “This Olympiad turns students into central stakeholders who can move us from identifying problems and complaining about them to actually solving them.”

Persad and Jerath, who is a member of the inaugural class of United Nations Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals, developed the competition to inspire energy innovation, promote the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and help foster a culture of entrepreneurship on campus.

ut energy olympiad

Karan Jerath and Himchand Persad

“We hope the Energy Olympiad will support the UN’s global call to action, while also advancing UT Austin President Greg Fenves’ vision to establish UT as the university of ‘what’s next,’” Jerath said.

The competition includes two divisions: Youth Energy Summit and the Longhorn Energy Challenge, which is open to UT Austin students only.

“The Youth Energy Summit will target high school students — we are looking for some of the brightest young people across Texas who are interested in energy innovation,” Persad explained. “This competition will help spotlight UT as a top academic choice for students interested in energy.”

Despite their young age, Jerath and Persad bring a wealth of experience to this endeavor. Persad created Opportunity Foundation, which provides orphans from his native home of Trinidad and Tobago with tutoring services and opportunities to build their entrepreneurial skills. Jerath, a former high school innovator himself, developed a subsea deepwater containment device that landed him on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Energy list during his freshman year at UT. He believes that the earlier students begin cultivating their ideas, the better.

“We are the next generation and we are going to have to face these issues that are being discussed,” he said. “To make real change, you have to find what you believe in and work hard to try and find solutions.”

Persad’s advice to students hoping to participate is to find intelligent partners who share a commitment and drive to make a difference.

“Entrepreneurship is a team effort,” he said. “You have to learn to harness the potential of those around you and keep at it until you reach success.”