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Destination Decarbonization

The Destination Decarbonization Challenge is a case study competition open to undergraduate students who want to get involved in the energy industry, solve challenges surrounding carbon emissions in their local region, and win some prize money along the way! The competition is part of an NREL grant awarded to the WET Center as a part of the American Made Challenge.

Congratulations to our winners: 

First Place - Team Project Zero

Second Place - Team Six-Thousand Dollar

Third Place - Team SustainaBulldogs

Accelerating decarbonization and reducing climate change is a large global issue. However, we think that the most impactful change begins at the local level with students who are, in our opinion, future leaders of climate change for many years to come.


Introducing the Destination Decarbonization Challenge, where students in groups of 2 to 4, can apply and submit their innovative ideas. We have outlined all the important steps below! Deadlines are firm. When you apply, those deadlines will be shared with you and your group. You can learn more by checking out the Challenge Background here. 

Read about all of the finalists, including out winners, below!

Team Agritech

Team Members:

  • Scott Sorgent, Environmental Science at San Joaquin Delta College

  • Matthew Gallegos, Environmental Sciences at Fresno State

Project Focus:

By utilizing a beneficial, low-disturbance cropping system where crops/plants that are best suited to grow in California's climate can be grown underneath photovoltaic systems as a chosen method of carbon capture, agrivoltaics built around municipal water treatment facilities can provide such an alternative to energy production while also trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Team Project Zero

Team Members:

  • Gurmannat Chalotra, Biochemistry at Fresno State

  • Amneek Chalotra, Political Science at Fresno State

  • Savera Sheikh, Biology at Fresno State


Project Focus:

Through the creation of a low-cost in-field prototype device, we intend to investigate ways to measure the carbon content of the soil, enabling farmers to maximize land efficiency. By effectively monitoring soil levels, we can determine exactly where we would need to implement successful techniques for enhancing soil health in a region (through no-till agriculture, cover crops, etc.), enabling that area to retain more carbon and produce more crops.

Team SustainaBulldogs

Team Members:

  • Stephanie Marquez, Biology at Fresno State

  • Alexis Valadez, Industrial Design at Fresno State

  • Jorge Armenta, Sports Administration at Fresno State

Project Focus:

The project's main objective is to develop and implement microgrids as a viable and economical means of lowering carbon emissions. The study will look into the advantages, technical possibilities, and ways to spread the use of microgrids in the Central Valley, with a focus on Fresno County. Additionally, the project aims to use urban green spaces for carbon sequestration and use data analysis to determine which trees are best for each location. Data will be used to determine which hotspots are most susceptible to climate change. Planning initiatives will take into account the needs of particularly vulnerable and underserved populations in an effort to achieve equity and climate justice.

Team Algenius

Team Members:

  • Naomi Garcia, Biology at Fresno State

  • Oliva Palazuelos, Biochemistry at Fresno State

  • Mark Soghomonian, Biochemistry at Fresno State 

  • Angela Soghomonian, Biochemistry at Fresno State


Project Focus:

Algae are well-known for their ability to photosynthesize, which allows them to use carbon dioxide as their main source of carbon. Algae can therefore not only absorb and reduce the harmful greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, but also use it to produce biomolecules that are crucial for the economy, most notably lipids. The total carbon content of the dried algal biomass produced at the conclusion of the algae's development phase will be determined using an elemental analyzer to determine the carbon fixation rate.

Team Six-Thousand Dollar

Team Members:

  • Hillary Rodriguez, Industrial Technology at Fresno State

  • Lesley Lopez, Law Enforcement at Fresno State

Project Focus:

The project's goal is to provide transportation alternatives, starting with a dependable public transit system that links Fresno and its neighboring cities to the Fresno State University campus. The primary objective of the project's earliest phases is to create a system that will enable the populace to carpool more effectively and safely. Fresno State students will be the program's initial participants. The users will have access to an app, where they must confirm their enrollment status and provide a few pieces of information, such as their general location and departure time. Along with lowering carbon emissions, this effort fosters relationships between the students and helps them save money on fuel and auto maintenance.

Team Trash Monitoring

Team Members:

  • Julian Hernandez, Computer Science at Sacramento State

  • Santiago Bermudez, Computer Science at Sacramento State

Project Focus:

California now falls short of its target to divert 75% of its garbage from landfills with a recycling rate of only 44%.  This study's objective is to create a computer vision algorithm that can identify trash in photos and indicate which bin it belongs in. When unsure which bin to put anything in, this will make it easier for consumers to decide on the best option. We can quickly and affordably install this system in numerous locations, such as on customers' smartphones at home or at heavily used waste bins. We will use publicly accessible datasets to train a unique Single Shot Detector algorithm.

Team Green

Team Members:

  • Tobias Lawson, Business Entrepreneurship at Fresno State 

  • Alexz Milana Wheaton, Business Administration at Fresno State


Project Focus: 

We want to find the most effective SDAC (Solid Direct Air Capture) technology being experimented with in 2023 and use it to design a prototype of a device that will allow anyone to participate in the fight against climate change. We want to make a device that can absorb small portions of carbon dioxide emissions from exhaust tailpipes of older cars or use that technology to capture the Co2 from the kitchen's ventilation system.

Team Sustainable

Team Members:

  • Zoie Gavel, Food Science/Nutrition Science at Fresno State

  • Alyssa Melton, Liberal Studies at Fresno State

Project Focus:

While seeming to be a minor issue, it is estimated that food waste is responsible for 6-8% of global emissions. Methane, an 80 times more potent gas than carbon dioxide, is produced as food waste breaks down in landfills. Nowadays, over 40% of the food produced in the US is wasted. This means that around 40% of the land we use for agriculture, as well as the water, agrochemicals, and transportation of food, are useless. Reducing food production should be the top priority because doing so would reduce food waste. Any extra food will be put to many useful uses, including composting, planting trees, and battling food insecurity.

Challenge Timeline. Destination Decarbonization.V2.png


$6,000- First Place

$4,000- Second Place

$2,500- Third Place

*Other prizes available for remaining projects, based on the quality of the submission. 

Resources For Students

Wondering where to start with decarbonization? Columbia University can help on

how we can make it happen.

 Visit The National Academies of Science Engineering and Medicine for their interactive resource that touches on the different aspects of decarbonization, and what the government is currently supporting.

The Department of Energy outlined a handy roadmap that can help with visualizing how we can reach "net zero" regarding carbon emissions.

This is a magazine put together by Stanford. They have collected a variety of different articles and resources related to decarbonization that they have put together into a magazine called "Race to Zero." 

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