PRIMRE/STEM/Prizes and Competitions/Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC)

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U.S. Department of Energy Marine Energy Collegiate Competition (MECC)

U.S. Department of Energy 2021 Marine Energy Collegiate Competition: Powering the Blue Economy

MECC Badge

Apply for the 2021 Marine Energy Collegiate Competition

About the Competition

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is hosting a challenge for university students to advance one of the most up-and-coming industries: marine energy. This competition, which is in its second year, is designed to challenge interdisciplinary teams of undergraduate and graduate students to offer unique solutions to the burgeoning marine energy industry that can play a vital role in powering the blue economy, such as the applications seen in Figure 1.

Marine energy has the potential to provide reliable power to the blue economy, but further work is needed to optimize designs and reduce costs. The competition’s objectives are to bring together diverse groups of students from multiple disciplines to explore opportunities for marine energy technologies to benefit other existing maritime industries via real-world concept development experiences.

The competition will provide students with real-world experience and industry connections that will help them prepare for future careers in the marine energy sector and the blue economy. Although few institutions offer marine-specific advanced degrees, having related experience is highly valuable for future prospects within a wide range of blue economy opportunities. Jobs across the blue economy include opportunities for researchers, scientists, engineers, educators, project managers, business, sales forces, and many others.

an illustration with nine boxes, each featuring marine renewable energy devices: ocean observation and navigation aid; recharge station and autonomous underwater vehicle; forms of aquaculture; marine algae farm; separation, purification, and adsorption; reverse osmosis facility; a disaster area; an isolated community; and a hydrogen fueling station.
Figure 1. Potential marine renewable energy applications. Click on the image to view details in a larger version. Images courtesy of Molly Grear, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Elements of the Competition

For the competition, teams of students will:

  • Develop a market-research-supported business plan, which will include key aspects of their design of a system that could be commercialized to address power needs for a chosen sector of the blue economy
  • Pitch their plan to a panel of judges and hypothetical investors
  • Have the option to build and test a device to achieve energy production (Note: The optional build and test element is new for the 2021 competition.)
  • Engage with their community through outreach and educational activities.
an illustration with two branches: power at sea that lists ocean observation, offshore marine aquaculture, seawater mining, marine algae, and underwater vehicle charging and coastal communities that lists desalination, isolated communities, and coastal resiliency and disaster recovery
Figure 2. Potential marine power applications. Click on the image to view details in a larger version.

Competition Guidelines

  • If circumstances do not allow for an in-person competition, the presentations will be moved to a virtual environment. Competition organizers will work to make adjustments and communicate any changes as quickly as possible, but teams may have to be flexible to accommodate these changes.
  • Teams may include graduate students but must consist of at least 50% undergraduate students, with undergrads adequately represented at the in-person or virtual competition.
  • Interdisciplinary teams are highly encouraged across areas of study.
  • Teams comprised of participants across multiple institutions are encouraged to apply; one application is required for the entire team.
  • Foreign educational institutions are welcome to apply with the following restrictions:
    • No more than 25% of the final teams selected to participate will be led by a foreign educational institution.
    • Foreign educational institutions are ineligible to receive support funding from DOE/NREL and must provide their own support.
  • Teams interested in participating in the optional Build and Test Challenge are required to compete in all competition aspects and must submit the MECC application by September 30, 2020. In addition, they must notify competition organizers by December 1, 2020 if they will be competing in the Build and Test Challenge.

Competition Deliverables

  • A 20- to 30-page market research-supported business plan and technical design of a marketable device powering any marine energy sector of the blue economy
  • A 20-minute public pitch that will be presented to a panel of judges during the competition event at the International Conference of Ocean Energy (ICOE) 2021 or virtual followed by a 15-minute Q&A session
    • 5 minutes of the public pitch will focus on community engagement and outreach activities the team conducted throughout the year
  • A poster summarizing the entire technical and business plan
  • Optional: An effective prototype that will be tested for power performance at model scale. Results of the test will be summarized in the written report.

Upcoming Important Dates

  • September 10, 2020: Applications open
  • September 23, 2020: Informational webinar
  • September 30, 2020: Applications to compete are due
  • October 9, 2020: Announcement of selected teams
  • April 28–30, 2021: Teams will compete at ICOE 2021 in Washington, DC

Competition News






This portal is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) under Contract Number DE- AC36-08GO28308 with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Contract Number DE-AC05-76RL01830 with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Contract Number DE-NA0003525 with Sandia National Laboratories, as part of the MHK Data Communities project. The United States Government retains, and the publisher, by accepting the article for publication, acknowledges that the United States Government retains a non-exclusive, paid-up, irrevocable, world-wide license to publish or reproduce the published form of this manuscript, or allow others to do so, for United States Government purposes.