Sophomore’s Startup a Finalist in MIT Clean Energy Prize

Apr 07 2015 | By Melanie A. Farmer | Jeffrey Schifman

Jonny Cohen’s startup, GreenShields Project, has been named a finalist in the MIT Clean Energy Prize, a business pitch competition in which teams compete for a $275,000 grand prize and category prizes. GreenShields will be competing in two categories: Energy Efficiency and Development. Twenty-one finalists are scheduled to compete on May 8.


Cohen's GreenShields device has been shown to improve a school bus’ gas mileage by 10 percent.

A sophomore in mechanical engineering, Cohen invented GreenShields when he was 12. The aerodynamic device affixes to the tops of school buses, and has been tested and shown to improve gas mileage by 10 percent.

Cohen, who was named to the 2013 and 2012 Forbes 30 Under 30 List for his work in green technology, says a win like the MIT Clean Energy Prize could really jumpstart the company’s goal to bring the device to market.

“We’re very excited,” says Cohen, whose business partner Param Jaggi is a fellow inventor and founder of startup Ecoviate. “Hopefully this will give us an opportunity to work on GreenShields freely over the summer and allow us to get to scale with some steam.”

The actual GreenShields device resembles a yellow shark fin, affixed to the upper front portion of a school bus. The device’s ability to improve a school bus’ fuel efficiency is attributed to its unique shape, which redirects air pressure at the top of buses to reduce fluid separation and lower the coefficient of drag. As a result, buses require less energy and fuel to move through space.

Cohen has been piloting the device in school districts in Illinois and Florida. Later this month, more GreenShields will be making their way to Panama City, FL, where the devices will be used and monitored on select school bus routes in the district. Delivering a larger test fleet is the ultimate near-term goal, says Cohen, and could be realized if GreenShields wins the MIT Clean Energy Prize.

Three years ago, the MIT Clean Energy Grand Prize win went to Radiator Labs, a startup cofounded by Engineering alumni Marshall Cox and John Sarik, with adviser Ioannis (John) Kymissis, associate professor of electrical engineering. At the time, the team was gearing up to pilot the design for their radiator retrofit in Columbia housing, and interestingly enough, Cohen’s dorm room is one of those lucky testers. The system is essentially a low-cost, drop-in radiator enclosure, or cozy, that can control the amount of heat transferred from the radiator to a room, increasing the energy efficiency overall of steam heating systems.

This summer, Cohen and Jaggi have seats at social innovation incubator Halcyon Incubator in Washington, D.C., where they will get office space and housing, allowing them to focus solely on GreenShields fulltime.