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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Annual research project to be conducted to improve residence halls’ utilities

Utilities+Challenge+is+a+semester-long+research+project+which+focuses+on+issues+including+sustainability+and+infrastructure+improvements.
Provided

Utilities Challenge is a semester-long research project which focuses on issues including sustainability and infrastructure improvements.

Students interested in sustainability or seeking experience in research have the opportunity to create change on campus through the fourth annual Utilities Challenge, organized by Utilities and Energy Services and the Department of Residence Life.
The semester-long research project is conducted by groups of four to six people who are given access to a specific residence hall’s utility consumption data and other information, which will be used to create plans to help the halls operate more sustainably. U-Challenge participants also look into matters like infrastructure improvements and student engagement to facilitate strategies that will best improve the residence hall as a whole.
According to graduate assistant sustainability coordinator Kristianna Bowles, U-Challenge benefits students because it gives the Department of Residence Life insight to make necessary changes.
“One of the core values of Residence Life is to make sure that we are providing what students need within their spaces because they’re paying to live here,” Bowles said. “A&M is the largest university in Texas, and we set an example as to what housing should be like. You should take active information from your students, get their perspective on what they want to see and then actively work to implement those.”
In addition to creating change on campus, participants of U-Challenge learn essential skills that can be used in the workplace. 
Being part of a research team that analyses data and forms solutions to problems can be the experience employers look for when hiring.
Director of Administrative and Support Services Carol Binzer said the skills learned while participating in U-Challenge are essential for graduate and undergraduate students.
“They certainly get [skills like] public speaking, creating a presentation and a little bit of teamwork experience,” Binzer said. “It’s professional development, even if they never think about the energy field again.”
Participants’ understanding of energy consumption is also heavily affected after working with U-Challenge. 
According to Energy Steward Tim Murphy, students can see energy problems from a different perspective and work to fix the problems efficiently and effectively.
“It gives the participants more intimate knowledge of how a building operates, and it will allow them to make better decisions on things that they can do to help with minimizing consumption,” Murphy said.
For more information about U-Challenge or on-campus sustainability, visit reslife.tamu.edu/living/sustainability.

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