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See Examples of Past Teams' Problems

View of the front of Stanford Campus

Bring Your Own Problem Idea or Technology! . . . . OR consider the problem ideas below

Problem 1

Wildfire Response

Firefighting effort and emergency evacuation response is limited by the inability to rapidly detect forest fires upon ignition.

photo: Abby Reed

Problem 2

Risk Reduction Co-Benefits

A challenge in wildfire risk reduction is that we are not very good at rewarding the multiple benefits that can come from removing accumulated fuels. Might forest timbers and other fuels be extracted both for their economic value for forest products and with the express intent and compensation for the service of reducing wildfire risk? Can more of the benefits of reducing wildfire risk be captured in order to reduce the financial costs?

photo: Lone Peak Hotshots

Problem 3

Harnessing Ocean Energy

Tidal currents — a largely untapped source of energy for coastal communities — have been hard to harness because the turbulent ocean waters can batter and damage the underwater equipment.

Problem 4

Small-scale Producers Lack Information

Small-scale fishers and farmers, especially in poor countries, often have limited information about the status of nearby markets. This results in dramatic fluctuations and inefficiencies in supply and price, because producers have no way to know whether the prices are better in the next village.

photo: Curtis Lind/WorldFish

Problem 5

Tropical Deforestation

Tropical deforestation is still a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and it has devastating impacts for habitat. Demand for timber and the land to cultivate products, notably palm oil, dominate the incentives landholders face and continue to exacerbate the problem.  Carbon credits, for one, may alter the incentives.  However, it is very hard to answer the question -- what would have happened if the credits were not issued? How much carbon was really protected by the credits?

photo: Kate Evans/CIFOR

Problem 6

Planned Relocation

Many homes and communities are located in areas where the risk of disaster (from fire or flood) is too high. It is clear that some homes or communities need to be relocated, but it is far from clear how to manage these strategic relocations in a way that manages costs, allocates costs fairly, preserves a community’s cohesiveness, and sustains quality of life.

Problem 7

Greening Homes and Buildings

Energy consumption by homes and buildings consume around 40% of energy. How can we reduce the energy consumption of buildings by 10% or more over the next 10 years?

Problem 8

Groundwater Recharge

Groundwater recharge has not sustained natural aquifers in CA. Quantities of water delivered for artificial recharge have been insufficient. Agencies and farmers lack understanding of how recharge operations may be suitable on their lands.

photo: USDA/Pajaro Valley Water District

Problem 9

Water Contaminants

Excessive nutrient and pesticide runoff from agriculture and pollutants from other sources leads to contamination of rivers and aquifers, causing health risks for people. The nutrient loading also causes harmful algal blooms and hypoxia - a reduced concentration of dissolved oxygen that leaves marine ecosystems unable to support aquatic life (e.g., the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico).

photo by NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

Problem 10

Carbon Sequestration

Carbon has been difficult to precisely measure in soils, constraining land management optimization for carbon sequestration and inclusion in carbon crediting.

photo: Beth Reynolds

Problem 11

Energy Use by Electronics

Energy consumption by electronics is growing. Significant power is used by devices when idle or not in use. For some devices this can be over 50% of its energy usage. Public policies and regulations continue to struggle addressing this problem. Are there new device designs in the data center or in our everyday consumer devices that can address these issues?

Problem 12

Maximizing Hydroelectric Dams

Hydroelectric power production does not always match the highest time of day demand and value for electricity, and dam operations are often not co-optimized with other environmental services.

Problem 13

Smart Cities

5G is envisioned to create smart cities which could be used to signicantly reduce emissions. Yet, no clear winning technology has jumped to the forefront that really has the potential for great impact.

photo: Franck Michel