By David Unger

WASHINGTON — The future of engineering and entrepreneurship was on display Wednesday at the first annual Atlantic Coast Conference Clean Energy Challenge.

“There’s no reason that the ACC should be any less successful with fuel cells compared to football or batteries compared to basketball or solar cells compared to soccer,” said Dean Chang, one of the organizers of the competition and director of Mtech Ventures Programs at the University of Maryland.

Four student teams from the southeastern United States battled for a $100,000 prize at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. The challenge is part of a larger effort by the U.S. Department of Energy to promote energy efficiency in new business models.

Proposals ranged from hybrid school buses to iPhone cases that generate solar power and other forms of alternative energy. Organizers said the competition fostered a healthy entrepreneurial spirit among the student contenders.

Two of the schools’ most famous mascots–Testudo from the University of Maryland and CavMan of the University of Virginia–made a surprise appearance, and the event bounced along under the high-powered music reminiscent of a final four basketball game.

The winners of the grand prize were Brandon Lojewski and Johan Rodriguez of the University of Central Florida, who hope to develop a less wasteful coating for lithium ion batteries. They will compete in the national competition this summer.

“Development of clean technology will extend the life of the planet, better humanity and it’s just a grand problem for humans and existence in general,” Lojewski said.