David Posner, WG’03, approached Kent Smetters, Wharton’s Boettner Professor in the Department of Business Economics and Public Policy, with a unique request on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 2011.

“They wanted to see if I could develop a case competition for the DOE at Wharton focusing on how to create a national grid to support charging electric cars,” recalls Smetters.

Knowing that such a project required an interdisciplinary approach, Smetters recruited the Wharton Energy Club and students and faculty from the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

When she heard about the DOE’s challenge, Jiayi Liang, WG’13, assembled Team BHJ with Anita Bhattachargee, WG’13, and Najmeh Habibili, WG’13—all fellow first-year MBA students at the time.

Growing up in Beijing, Liang had developed an early understanding of and passion for sustainability.

“I had a sense of crisis from very young—a sense that we may run out of resources one day,” she says.

Team BHJ’s broad view of the challenge and partnership with established industry stakeholders led them to win the competition over the 10 other teams.

Following the success of the EV challenge, Penn was invited to participate in the 2013 Better Building Case Competition, aiming to develop a plan to reduce energy consumption in Fort Worth, TX, and propose a nationwide pilot program.

—By Karen A. Boedecker