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ComEd Ideathon Challenges Bronzeville Students to Develop Smart Technology 

Local high schools vie for top honors, cash prizes in second annual event

ComEd is challenging high school students in the South Side neighborhood of Bronzeville to create innovative technology solutions that have the potential to benefit the community and qualify for cash prizes.

The second annual ComEd Ideathon kicks-off on January 12 at the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School at 2641 South Calumet Avenue in Bronzeville. High school students who live in or attend high school in Bronzeville can form teams of up to five students. They will partner with college mentors and engineers from ComEd, Accenture, AECOM, Burns & McDonnell, KDM Engineering, SDI Presence, Illinois Institute of Technology, and the National Society of Black Engineers. The STEM education program is part of ComEd’s Bronzeville Community of the Future initiative, which is focused on leveraging smart grid technology to address community needs and interests.

Twelve teams participated in the program last year. A team from King College Prep took top honors for developing a micro-processor solution to help prevent accidents when emergency vehicles travel through busy urban intersections.  A team from the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School won second-place for developing a bracelet that alerts people with impaired hearing of emergency sirens and De La Salle Institute claimed third place for a smart circuit breaker device that enables the restoration of power to home appliances through wireless connectivity and a phone app.

“We are building upon the strength of the recently completed smart grid to drive innovation for our customers,” said Melissa Washington, vice president, governmental and external affairs, ComEd. “This includes helping our students gain a hands-on understanding of the underlying technology to spark their interest in STEM education and expose them to career opportunities.

“The first Ideathon exceeded everyone’s expectations in terms of participation,” said Shay Bahramirad, vice president engineering and smart grid, ComEd. “We’re excited to work with returning students and newcomers to help them learn basic engineering principles and create a solution that can make a positive impact on the community.”

Bahramirad said that students will learn how to use microprocessors to develop sensors that can relay helpful information and enable a community to function efficiently, sustainably, reliably and more safely. Winning criteria include the potential to deliver community benefits related to health, safety, sustainability, connectedness, mobility, efficiency and education. Teams advancing to the final round will present their ideas and technologies to a panel of judges at the final Spark Tank event in April. Cash prizes of $2,000, $1,000 and $500 will be presented to first, second and third-place finishers and will be distributed among team members.

Other Community of the Future initiatives include a microgrid that will enhance the security and resiliency of the electric system; an electric vehicle transportation service for seniors; off-grid wind and solar LED streetlights; a community energy storage pilot; a smart interactive kiosk that provides real-time information along with emergency alerts, wayfinding and public wi-fi; and sensor-based technologies that are being piloted in conjunction with Illinois Tech.

ComEd is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC), a Fortune 100 energy company with approximately 10 million electricity and natural gas customers – the largest number of customers in the U.S. ComEd powers the lives of more than 4 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter  and  YouTube.

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