NU students serve the greater good, one project at a time.

Growing up on his family’s 200-acre farm outside of Saratoga, N.Y., engineering student Jake Keasbey ’17 had always been aware of the issues surrounding agricultural runoff—and its potential negative impact on water quality. But it wasn’t until he completed this year’s inaugural NU Launch* series that he understood what to do about it.

“It was an epiphany,” he recalls. “We had been discussing what was happening with Lake Champlain, and something clicked.” The results of that awakening could very well lead to one of the first commercially viable—and sustainable—technologies to address the rising incidence of toxic algae blooms.

Jake’s idea involves capturing agricultural runoff before it hits major waterways and cultivating that runoff into commercial-grade algae that can be sold as biomass for fuel, food, vitamins, and other consumer products. After presenting his business plan to a panel of experts at NU Launch, Jake won $1,000, which he will use to fund the next important step in his plan: developing a catchment-pond prototype and testing his assumptions in a real-world situation.

Kenneth Johnston ’82—CAO of GZA GeoEnvironmental, Inc. and one of the competition’s judges—was so impressed with Jake’s vision that he personally invited Jake to meet this summer with his water-resource engineers in Boston.

“Jake is a genuine example of what we look for in a future civil engineer,” says David Feinauer, Jake’s faculty advisor. “‘Civil’ at its root means ‘for the public,’ yet the profession is often overlooked as one that truly helps people. With the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of students like Jake, however, we can be assured of very civil solutions to some of our most major challenges.” –Jane Dunbar (Norwich Record | Summer 2015)

*NU Launch comprises a series of workshops designed to introduce students to the worlds of innovation and entrepreneurship, and culminates in a competition during which participants pitch their business plans to a panel of experts in hopes of winning start-up funding.

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