The Winnovation 2012 winners.

Winnovation

Vestas’ annual competition invites students to tackle real wind energy industry challenges for a chance to win a world trip.

This month engineering students from India, The Dominican Republic and China won big at Vestas’ Winnovation Case Challenge 2012, walking away with a plethora of new experiences as well as a travel voucher worth approximately €2,700.

What is Winnovation?

Winnovation is a global competition for Master’s degree engineering students hosted by wind energy company Vestas. Participants were invited to tackle real wind energy industry challenges in the areas of quality excellence within product development, supply chain management and production. Applying students are given an initial theme to work with, which they must present a business case for. The judges then assign points on its quality.

“We look for innovative solutions that have a chance of implementation within a few years,” says Darko Stojkovic, vice president, Production Development at Vestas Blades and a Winnovation judge.

For the company itself, it is a chance to introduce students to the company and industry as well as give it a fresh influx of ideas. The judges hope that some of the “winnovators” may end up choosing a career at Vestas.

“[The applicants] keep re-assuring me that there are talented and hard working individuals all around the world,” Stojkovic notes.

The Winnovation final

Of the hundreds of applicants from more than 40 countries this year, 27 finalists were selected based on the innovation and viability of their solutions and were flown to Aarhus, Denmark, for two days of case challenges and team building at the start of this month.

“The cases are representative of the challenges we see in the wind industry in that in order to solve the case, team members must quickly formulate a solution based on limited time and imperfect information,” explains Zach Perkel, a Winnovation judge from Vestas’
Engineering Development department. “The only way to be successful in the final case is to have a strong team that exhibits great teamwork. The team that won was made up of members with diverse backgrounds who knew how to work together to come up with a good solution.”

The victorious team consisted of Hu Jian from Xi'an Jiaotong University, China, Carlos Alberto Peña Sánchez from the University of North Texas, USA and Vivek Radhakrishnan, from the MIT Zaragoza Program at Zaragoza Logistics Center, Spain. As well as being ecstatic about their travel prize, the team feel they’ve gained a lot of useful experience from the competition.

Gaining news skills and experience

“It wasn't until Winnovation that I got a practical glimpse of what it means to be involved in the renewable energy sector,” says Sanchez. “It was also a surprise because I wasn’t aware that the wind energy sector was so well developed already. I think having this experience is a confirmation that this is what I definitely want to do.

“I got a whole new exposure to the renewable energy industry, plus you get to meet so many people and learn from their different backgrounds and cultures. I learnt a lot from working on the cases with different people,” adds Radhakrishnan.

For Jian, travelling to the Winnovation final was his first trip outside of China, which was very exciting and opened his eyes to many new experiences.

“I’ve made new friends from different countries and got to test out new food,” he enthuses. “I come from a mechanical engineering background so I feel that Winnovation has allowed me to learn a lot more about quality and supply chain, plus this is the first time I’ve been able to put my knowledge into action, solve real company problems. I feel that I’ve learnt so much from my short time here.”

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