A lack of consistent electrical power is a problem in developing countries, especially so if the entity needing power is a hospital. To mitigate the effects of power scarcity in the healthcare sector in these developing economics, a group of University students have created an “Intelligent Plug for Devices.”

The device, also called iPlugD (pronounced i-plugged), helps hospitals extend the duration of their services from power backup supplies by redirecting at least 30 percent power from non-critical devices to more critical ones.

iPlugD is the brainchild of Aelios Technology, a team of College of Science and Engineering students Saurav Talukdar, Shreyas Bhaban, and Sourav Patel as well as Carlson MBA student Atul Fotedar. At the recent Acara Challenge, the team’s idea took the graduate division top prize of up to $5,000 in fellowship funding. Aelios Technology was also named the crowd favorite at the March 1 competition, earning it another $500.

Sponsored by the U’s Institute on the Environment, the Acara Challenge is an annual competition to fund students who are developing solutions to address social and environmental challenges.

“Our challenge was to create a sustainable business that helps human beings live life at a greater potential within the developing world,” Fotedar says.

The team worked heavily on the technical side, but the initial stages of ideation needed a business idea momentum to get started, which was Fotedar’s domain. “Hashing out the details about the technology were taken care of by the individuals closer to the technology,” he says. “Each member was designated different tasks, but in case we felt that one of us wasn’t working well or putting in enough effort, we would cover up for the difference as a team.”

Fotedar says his biggest takeaway from the project was working in a team. “Different teammates can have different motivations and that should be known at the start,” he says. “It’s important to have a team charter and define roles and responsibilities. It helps to put in larger energy and brings the team closer.”

The experience was also a good testing ground to get some financial help to complete ground tests and to cover the expenses for a few urgent tasks. “The experience also helped to connect us with people within the industry,” Fotedar says. “Receiving expert opinions is always helpful and helps channel our efforts in the right direction.”

Aelios Technology is currently in the next phase of field trials and a larger goal of operationalizing the business is still ahead. The team is also a finalist in the 2018 National Cleantech University Prize in Washington, D.C. It will vie for the competition’s $100,000 in prizes.