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ENV seniors spearhead Princeton Environmental Ideathon

Certificate students from the University’s Environmental Studies program are bringing a new competition to campus in the form of a novel environmental summit. From April 13-15, 2018, ENV certificate students will be hosting an Environmental Ideathon for 300 graduate and undergraduate students pursuing environmental studies across the East Coast. Competing students will be invited to spend a weekend at Princeton collaborating and innovating on “Cities of the Future."

“It made sense for us to start with cities, which leave a big trace on their surroundings because of the concentration of people, cars, etc.,” ENV senior and project leader Julie Pourtois ’18 explained of the group's choice in theme.


The impetus for the summit came out of an ENV colloquium led by Geosciences postdoctoral student Paul Gauthier, according to Pourtois. Though Gauthier helped get the idea started, leadership for the Ideathon consists mostly of seniors in the ENV certificate program, along with certificate juniors and other interested members of the University community. “Ultimately,” said Pourtois, “this should be completely student-organized.”

The Ideathon will challenge participants by placing them in groups with peers they haven’t met before. These groups will be asked to respond to a variety of prompts throughout the weekend. According to Pourtois, leaders have not yet decided whether prompts will be given beforehand. However, the project should not be one participants have been working on for years.

Though most competitions of this type do not mix students of differing educational levels, Pourtois explained that inviting both undergraduate and graduate students to the Ideathon “opens the Ideathon up to more people, especially considering [the fact that] not every college will have an environmental section for undergrads.”

Pourtois added that interesting opportunities for mentoring could arise from the Ideathon. Not only will there be mixing of educational levels, but also of educational backgrounds. “We will particularly encourage people from different backgrounds to work together, including architecture, engineering, the sciences, and the humanities,” Pourtois explained.

Students from colleges and universities across the East Coast will be targeted for participation. Monetary prizes will be awarded based on the feasibility, intellectual merit, and broader impact of contestants’ projects.

Logistics director Christopher Shin ’18 explained that the Ideathon has the potential to be “another big step towards mainstreaming environmental issues on college campuses. Thinkers and doers across all disciplines need to come together for these complex issues; the Ideathon is going to make that happen."


Sponsorship director Don Martocello ’18 agreed with Shin.

"From a young age, I've known that one of my duties and responsibilities to future generations was to protect and preserve the environment in perpetuity,” said Martocello. “Through my time at Princeton, I've learned that this can take many forms and it is truly awesome to realize just how central the environment is for humanity.”

Martocello also explained that the Ideathon is a chance to show the world that the University is a great place to study the environment and its impact on all aspects of life.

School outreach coordinator Mikaela Bankston '18 did not respond to requests for comment.

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