UMass Amherst iCons Students Present at Department of Energy Conference in Washington, D.C.
A team of students from the UMass iCons Program presented “Improving Access to Electrical Power for Climate Resilience,” a project conducted in collaboration with the Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, at the Justice Week 2023 conference in Washington, D.C., last week.
The student presenters from the computer science, mathematics and computer systems engineering programs, included Suhani Chawla, Jose Cruz Mendez, Anvitha Ramachandran, Sarojini Torchon and Gabby Walczak.
The team was invited along with eight other universities to present at the conference, themed “Equity Empowered.” The five-day hybrid event, held from Oct. 30-Nov. 3, was aimed at advancing equity and environmental justice in the clean energy transition and ensuring that climate change investments benefit the communities that are often left behind.
“This was an amazing opportunity to put our iCons learning in both energy justice and science communication to the test,” Walczak said. “Speaking at Justice Week alongside political leaders fighting for the same cause was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Each of the nine student teams are working to create a digital solution to address the problem of inadequate electricity access in marginalized communities during severe weather events such as hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes. The UMass iCons team is developing a smart website called “ASSERT” – AI-Supported Smart Electricity Restoration Tool. ASSERT is designed to inform utility emergency response teams on geographic locations of vulnerable populations during power outages, allowing utility emergency responses to restore power with social equity in mind.
“It’s exciting to see the iCons team bring together ideas from applied math, artificial intelligence, graphical information systems and human-centered design to address this real-world problem,” said Scott Auerbach, professor of chemistry and chemical engineering and Mahoney Family Sponsored executive director of iCons. “I can’t wait to see what they come up with in a few short weeks.”
The project is administered by the U.S. Census Bureau through “The Opportunity Project,” in partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology. Other universities participating in the project include the University of California, Berkeley, Columbia University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Tufts University.