Three undergraduate students from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin won the Shell Ideas360 International Design Competition with their idea for Smart Panels.

Tom Connolly and three Tx engineering students holding Shell 360 prize and American flag

The interdisciplinary team included mechanical engineering student Mandeep Patel, electrical and computer engineering student Taylor Zhao and biomedical engineering student Malvika Patel. The Texas Engineering team was the only U.S. team among the competition’s five finalists and also received the Audience Choice Award, which was determined by worldwide online voting.

Shell Ideas360 is a global competition for students to develop game-changing ideas for tackling energy, water and food issues. Teams of three are invited to register and submit an initial idea, and selected teams move on to a second stage in which they further develop their ideas with mentors and experts from Shell. Five finalist teams are chosen present their ideas to a panel of judges.

The Cockrell School team's Smart Panels is a renewable energy solution to address an existing problem with solar panel technology. By shaping memory alloy into springs that stretch when cool (watch how), this simple system ensures a solar panel continually faces the sun’s position in the sky by responding to a temperature gradient, increasing energy output.