RIT on TV News: Green Challenge

RIT President Bill Destler discusses plans for the Green Challenge scheduled at this year’s Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival during WXXI-TV’s (Channel 21) Need to Know program.

Anchor: And how did Rochester Institute of Technology President William Destler get here? Not sure the weather was right for that bicycle, but thats what were going to talk about today.
Destler: Good Morning Julie how are you?
Anchor: Good how are you doing?
Destler: Im doing very well
Anchor: Great, Dr. Destler has issued Dr. Destlers Green Vehicle Challenge. And why dont you talk about that a little bit, what is that challenge?
Destler: Well the challenge is associated with our second Innovation and Creativity Festival to be held on May 2nd. And Im challenging the RIT community to come up with alternative transportation methods that would be better than my own electric bicycle which I built last spring. And we are going to challenge anyone to beat my bike in terms of how much energy it consumes in circumventing the RIT loop which is about three miles under its own power.
Anchor: I think were taking a look now at the promo of you with your bike. But youre not telling anyone how energy efficient your bike is until the day of the challenge, correct?
Destler: Well Ive made photos of the bike available and so forth. Its a 47 dollar Wal-Mart bike which Ive put a front electric hub motor, and a back lithium battery pack. So I think they can probably figure it out for themselves if theyre smart. And by the way I expect to loose this contest.
Anchor: And the winner gets either money or one of your prize banjos so theres a lot at stake here. Now, Im guessing as the president of Rochester Institute of Technology theres reason beyond this, its not just for kicks.
Destler: Well of course. I think we all need to find more sustainable ways of moving forward to a lifestyle in which we consume less energy, we consume less materials and the like, practice more green living styles. Whether or not youre a believer in global warming, its quite clear that as the population of the world increases, and commodities become in more limited supply, were going to have to find ways to live more sustainably; and I think this is a challenge to get our community thinking about that.
Anchor: And alternatives to the combustion engine are a focus for RIT?
Destler: Yes very much so, were working with GM and Delphi in fuel cell technology, were working on electric vehicles, were working on bio-diesel vehicles, and the like. So theres quite a program there in the whole area of sustainable devices, renewable energy sources and sustainable manufacturing.
Anchor: Im guessing the things that comes of this challenge may not be realistic in terms of thats great lets use it on the road. How do you build from that experience of a student developing a device that will get them around campus a little more efficiently than your bike, to a real world where we are no longer reliant on the combustion engine to get most of us around?
Destler: Well you dont grow plants without seeds. And thats what were trying to do here. Were trying to get thinking started among various parts of our RIT communities. Students, faculty and staff, anybody is free to compete. We hope that once they get the bug, they start thinking more seriously about this. We have the capability to turn ideas into new businesses there through our incubator program, and were hoping that some of these products and ideas eventually end up as real products and services people can buy.
Anchor: So in addition to the cash prize and the banjo, they may end up in an incubator working on developing it even further?
Destler: That would be a wonderful result of the competition.
Anchor: You know weve heard Presidents Obamas challenge, how realistic is it over the next decade, do you see us relying much less on the combustion engine, and much more on other types of vehicles?
Destler: I think we will move in that direction, Im hoping that in the next decade we can reduce our consumption of fossil fuels for transportation by as much as 25%. Thats a very ambitious goal, but it is achievable if were willing to work together. We now have within the next two or three years plug-in hybrids coming, which will travel 40 miles an hour without consuming a drop of gasoline. I think thats an important step along the way, and I know at least GM and Chrysler are planning to offer such vehicles. So I think were going to see some movement in that direction, and I think that also some of the power that we use to power these vehicles will be from renewable sources. For example here in New York state, hydropower but also wind and solar power as well.