Team of Notre Dame students named finalists in DOE collegiate competition

Author: Barbara Villarosa

Geothermal Competition Image
Geothermal Competition Image

When Samuel De La Paz, a mechanical engineering major with a minor in energy studies at the University of Notre Dame, first learned of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Spring 2021 Geothermal Collegiate Competition, there was only one week left to enter. This did not deter him. Instead, he put together a multi-disciplinary team of determined and passionate students, such as himself, and created a submission that later resulted in becoming one of the finalists. Fifteen teams will move forward to the next level.

Administered by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the geothermal competition engages students in developing direct-use geothermal concepts and designing communication strategies to increase public awareness and understanding of geothermal power as a renewable energy source. Throughout the competition, students gain a thorough understanding of geothermal technology, its use, and the costs associated with installation, operation, and maintenance, as well as the benefits and long-term impact of implementation.

“Thanks to the College of Engineering’s Hispanic Professional Engineering group, I was informed of the competition and able to assemble an awesome team of students, consisting of people I’ve known and some I didn’t know, including those in the Energy Studies Minor,” said De La Paz.

Notre Dame’s team, known as Geothermal ND, is comprised of students from the College of Arts & Letters, College of Engineering, and the Mendoza College of Business and is led by De La Paz. Each member serves on one or more subgroup, allowing them to focus on a specific area of the project. The team includes the following:

Camille Broderick, finance major (economic analysis team and website team)
Samuel De La Paz, mechanical engineering major and energy studies minor (team captain and website team)
Joe Gentine, economics and environmental sciences major (economic analysis team and website team)
Justin Idrovo, chemical engineering major and engineering corporate practice minor (end use team)
Kyle McLoughlin, mechanical engineering major (economic analysis team leader)
Isaiah Murrell-Thomas, environmental engineering major and energy studies minor (end use team leader and website team)
Emily Yoo, civil engineering major and energy studies minor (end use team)

“Being a part of a multi-disciplinary team has broadened my knowledge far beyond what I had imagined when first considering the potential of geothermal energy and how it can be used in the United States,” said De La Paz. “Geothermal has a wide range of energy applications from generating electricity to melting snow on sidewalks. For this competition, our team is focusing on the efficiency and economical aspects of geothermal power for heating and cooling buildings and the impact this has on Notre Dame’s campus and its surrounding communities.“

Geothermal Competition Site

After consulting with Paul Kempf, assistant vice president for utilities and maintenance at Notre Dame, to understand the University’s geothermal system and long-range plans, the team identified the Burke Golf Course on the south west corner of Notre Dame’s campus as the site for their study. The next step in the competition requires the team to apply the potential of geothermal technology to this site and determine the feasibility of implementation. This involves engaging University stakeholders, considering social and economic factors, conducting a cost-benefits analysis, identifying long-range benefits, and developing a website that will house this information and serve as an educational tool for visitors.

The team is hopeful that the website will eventually serve as a long-term learning resource for students and faculty at Notre Dame and will help to leverage community knowledge and further implementation of geothermal energy systems throughout the Michiana area.  

De La Paz and the Geothermal ND team are working on their final submission, which is due May 4. Winners will be announced June 8, 2021.   

The photo above represents the proposed project location site shaded in yellow. Dorms with potential for heating and cooling renovation are shaded in white. Dorm capable of being tied into geothermal system is shaded in blue (Source: Google Earth Pro)

About ND Energy:

ND Energy is a University Research Center whose mission is to build a better world by creating new energy technologies and systems and educating individuals to help solve the most critical energy challenges facing our world today. For more information, visit the ND Energy website at or contact Barbara Villarosa, Business and Communications Program Director, at Follow us on Twitter (NotreDameEnergy) and LinkedIn (


Originally published by Barbara Villarosa at on April 14, 2021.