Undergrad student wins award for sustainable energy video

5/2/2023 Lexi Larson

Aaryaman Patel recently won second place in the International District Energy Association (IDEA)'s Campus Energy Student Video Contest.

Written by Lexi Larson

Aaryaman Patel, smiling in front of the Beckman Institute.
Aaryaman Patel

MechSE junior Aaryaman Patel recently won the second-place award in the International District Energy Association (IDEA)’s Campus Energy Student Video Contest. The annual contest, which returned this year following a two-year hiatus due to Covid, aims to spread awareness of campuses that are leading the way in sustainable energy. Patel rose to meet the challenge with the encouragement of Teaching Associate Professor Leon Liebenberg.

Patel filled the role of writer, producer, actor, and director to create his video. He was prepared for the contest thanks to his time in Liebenberg’s ME class, where he learned about the university’s renewable systems and toured the Abbot Power Plant several times. Limited by a three-minute length requirement, the production was finished quickly, as Patel shot all the videos in one day and finished editing in three days. He said he “felt like [he] could have done more if there was a bigger time limit in the video.”

Despite this, Patel’s informative video was a success. With a narrative that feels more like a story, viewers follow three students learning about UIUC’s energy systems while studying for their thermodynamics test. The film shares facts with the audience in a unique and fun way, making it easy to see how Patel won second place. He wanted the story to focus more on the people who made the technology possible, and who work hard to maintain it daily. 

“Even though we won the award, it was only possible because of a lot of people’s help. I reached out to a lot of people to bounce ideas off of. It was really a team effort,” Patel said. “Thank you to all the people who helped, especially Professor Liebenberg, Mike Brewer, Mike Larson, Professor Stumpf, Peter Myers, and the actors from IFV [Illini Film and Video]!”

Patel’s passion for discussing the environment, ideas for the future, and general goals helped him create a connection with Liebenberg. The two would often discuss their ideas after class. Liebenberg is an avid advocate for renewable energy who works hard to blend relevant topics into his lectures and encourages students to find ways to contribute to renewable energy efforts, including participating in Illinois’s own Sustainability Competition for Undergrads.

Patel said UIUC’s strong reputation drove his decision to attend. He knew from high school that he was interested in engineering and after a lot of research, he found that mechanical engineering seemed to be his speed. He also found student clubs that he was excited to join. Originally from Ahmedabad, India, Aaryaman Patel shared that “despite the cold weather, Illinois felt like a cool place to come to for college.”

Outside of making award-winning videos, Patel runs a talk show on campus. Called “The UIUC Talkshow,” Patel and his co-host interview gamechangers in the field of sustainability and beyond. He is also on the Solar Car team as the Mechanical Lead. Keep an eye out for more exciting work from Patel.

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This story was published May 2, 2023.