by Jeff Della Rosa (

Dr. Alan Mantooth, professor of electrical engineering at [AAEA member] the University of Arkansas and president of Power Electronics Society, announced a $1 million prize will be given to the winner of a competition to solve worldwide energy poverty.

The contest is called Empower a Billion Lives and is an initiative of the professional association Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which has 432,000 members worldwide, works to advance technology to benefit humanity, and is the parent organization of Power Electronics Society.

Mantooth said the competition was established to inspire interdisciplinary innovation and lead to solutions to bring electricity to impoverished regions throughout the world. More than 1 billion people live without any access to electricity, and 3 billion people live in energy poverty.

Mantooth explained the competition was developed as a humanitarian effort after the organization and Google hosted the $1 million Little Box Challenge, in which more than 2,000 teams participated to design and build a small kilowatt-scale inverter with a power density of more than 50 watts per cubic inch.

Since spring 2017, the organization has been raising money for Empower a Billion Lives and has raised about $700,000 so far, Mantooth said. About $300,000 of it is from the organization, while private corporations, individuals and organizations have also contributed to the prize.

“This is an open competition for companies, universities and government laboratories,” Mantooth said. The online round of applicants will be reviewed in May, followed by a regional round between November and January 2019. The global final round is expected to take place in September 2019, but depending on how the regional round plays out it could be spring 2020 before the final, Mantooth said. Regional rounds will take place in five countries throughout the world.

The inventions that win in the regional rounds are expected to show what works in those respective regions, he said. The winning invention will likely be one that would apply across the most regions.

More information about the competition is available online at

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