Students, judges and volunteers of the David Holub Interdisciplinary CleanTech Design Challenge

July 5, 2022

CleanTech challenge allows students to develop creative solutions to fight climate change

New interdisciplinary event brings together law and engineering students

Finding unique ways to solve some of our biggest climate challenges is no easy task. It will take creativity, ingenuity and a deep understanding of the tools and technology at our disposal.  

Students in the Faculty of Law and Schulich School of Engineering embraced this challenge recently as participants in the inaugural David Holub Interdisciplinary CleanTech Design Challenge, a one-day event that saw students collaborating to provide solutions to combating climate change.  

The event’s namesake and sponsor, UCalgary Senator David Holub, BSc’85, has first-hand experience in the importance of lawyers and engineers being able to understand each other and to work together. He completed his undergrad degree in geology and always had plans to go to law school, which he completed at Osgoode Hall Law School in 1988.

Once he started practising law, primarily as in-house counsel for oil and gas companies, he found that he was thrown into working groups and teams with engineers, geophysicists, human resources and finance experts, and had never experienced the interplay between any of these groups. 

“If you don’t understand how other professionals think and work, you can’t be as effective when trying to develop a solution to the problems you’re hired to solve,” explains Holub. “In the ‘real world,’ engineers need to understand the legal issues and lawyers need to understand the technical aspects of a project in order to move it forward and to be more effective in their job.” 

A team presents their idea in the Interdisciplinary CleanTech Design Challenge

The Geothermal for Greenhouses team presents their idea at the David Holub Interdisciplinary CleanTech Design Challenge.

Team solutions to climate change varied 

Four teams participated in the challenge, including 13 engineering students and four law students, and proposals ranged from using geothermal energy to power greenhouses, repurposing oil and gas infrastructure to power electric vehicle charging stations, transforming renewable natural gas into energy to run wastewater treatment plants, and an app to encourage sustainable practices.  

“The challenge was a great way for law students to connect with folks from a variety of technical backgrounds,” says second-year law student Isaiah Martin. “A lot of the practice of law, particularly in Calgary, involves dealing with engineers and scientists in the energy sector. Learning how to communicate legal concepts to interdisciplinary teams, as well as trying to understand the more technical aspects of the industry, is an invaluable skill for lawyers looking to practise in Alberta.” 

“Coming from an engineering background, I was excited to enter a competition where I could use my technical skills, as well as the skills I’ve learned in law school and through my experience as a legal summer student,” he says. 

A team meets with a consultant

Team members meet with a consultant during the design challenge.

$800 prize on the line 

Participants were given the morning to research and develop their proposals, and were able to consult with experts in engineering, entrepreneurial thinking and the UCalgary Law Business Venture Clinic. In the afternoon, each team had 10 minutes to present their solutions to a panel of judges, who had an imaginary $1 million to spend and had to decide how much to invest in each project. The team that raised the most “capital” won the day and a prize of $800. 

"As the world changes for the better, engineers are very important for its critical development; however, they aren't solely responsible for it,” explains Lujaina Eldelebshany, a second-year software engineering student.

“I think it's important for students in both faculties to recognize that the overlap between different academic backgrounds allows for common ground while the respective areas of expertise cover a greater surface area of the possible knowledge brought to solve a particular challenge and that it is very important in the real world for smoothly integrating different paradigms into a feasible and realistic solution." 

Winning team of the CleanTech Design Challenge

Team 2 won the David Holub Interdisciplinary CleanTech Design Challenge

After the presentations were complete, the winning team was Geothermal for Greenhouses, which developed a system to use geothermal energy to create steam to supply electricity to greenhouses and farms across the province.  

“The David Holub Interdisciplinary Clean-Tech Challenge provides a unique platform for students from the faculties of engineering and law to work collaboratively to find environmentally friendly solutions to critical environmental problems,” says Evaristus Oshionebo, associate dean of the Faculty of Law. “This event enables students to approach environmental problems from a wider perspective, explore new ideas, and find creative scientific solutions to environmental problems, while taking into account the legal requirements that must be satisfied in order to implement the scientific solutions. 

“This inaugural event was spectacularly successful, and I look forward to next year’s version of the event.”  

As for future events, Holub hopes to see more faculties and students involved to truly embrace the realities of how professions work together to solve problems.  

“Decisions and deals aren’t made in a boardroom. Lawyers need to see the manufacturing process or how clean energy can be stored to truly get an understanding of the technical requirements and legal issues involved,” explains Holub.

“Teaching students and future professionals how to work together now will benefit their careers in the future and will make them more valuable to their organizations, no matter if they are lawyers, engineers, historians or marketing leaders.”  

Congratulations to all the students who participated in the event: 

  • Jonas Boettcher-Sheard, Faculty of Law 

  • Quinn Ceplis, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Rajdeep Chaliha, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Aarti Chandiramani, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Michelle Chow, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Lujaina Eldelebshany, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Alexa Gee, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Nian He, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Derek Hetherington, Faculty of Law 

  • Daphne Hong, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Maria Law, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Isaiah Martin, Faculty of Law 

  • Irene Pham, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Simran Rai, Faculty of Law 

  • Nishi Solanki, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Tayyaba Tahir, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • David Tran, Schulich School of Engineering 

Events like this one would not be possible without the support of our volunteers, including: 


  • Heather Herring, MBA’96, Make It So, Inc.  

  • Nannette Ho-Covernton, BSc (Eng)’87, Spartan Controls  

  • Dr. Ghada Nafie, PhD’20, Schulich School of Engineering  

  • Dr. Evaristus Oshionebo, PhD, Faculty of Law  

  • Maude Ramsay, BSc (Eng)’03, Canadian Natural Resources Limited 

  • Professor Bryce Tingle, Faculty of Law 


  • Reed Boothby, Business Venture Clinic, Faculty of Law 

  • Mehrsa Ehsani, Haskayne School of Business 

  • Dr. Sean McCoy, PhD, Schulich School of Engineering  

  • Dr. Mohammed Moshirpour, PhD’16, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Dr. Ghada Nafie, PhD’20, Schulich School of Engineering 

  • Sukhi Sandhu, Business Venture Clinic, Faculty of Law 

  • Dr. Roman Shor, PhD, Schulich School of Engineering