Students from Carnegie Mellon won the Johnson Controls open-letter competition. The students and faculty of the engineering department includes Benjamin Flath (left), Constantine Samaras, Ines Margarida Lima de Azevedo, Shahzeen Attari and Professor David Dzombak, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon and faculty director of the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research.

Johnson Controls recently chose four students at Carnegie Mellon as the first-place winners in its open-letter-writing competition called “Tomorrow’s Energy Ambassadors, Managers and Scholars.”

The contest challenged students to demonstrate their awareness of important energy and sustainability issues by challenging the field of 2008 presidential candidates to clarify their own positions on the topic.

The students’ winning letters appeared as a full-page ad Nov. 20 in the Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., regional editions of USA Today.

The college students were dubbed the “Quiet Generation” in an editorial by New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman.

“We challenged students at more than 200 member schools of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education to draft an open letter to the field of 2008 presidential candidates,” said Clay Nesler, vice president of global energy and sustainability at Johnson Controls. “The letter from Carnegie Mellon students in particular demonstrates that this generation is both inspired and impatient. We congratulate them for outlining an informed and timely query to the candidates.”

In addition to having its letter published in USA Today, Johnson Controls will present the Carnegie Mellon team with a $10,000 check for the school’s scholarship fund. The team also will receive a $2,500 grant from Johnson Controls and will be invited guests at the 2008 Energy Efficiency Forum in Washington, D.C. Second- and third-place teams will receive grants in the amounts or $1,500 and $1,000, respectively.

Placing second in the competition was the team from Georgia Institute of Technology. The letter winning third place came from students at the University of Montana.

The Johnson Controls competition started during Energy Awareness Month in October. Entries had a strict word limit ranging between 800-900 words and were independently judged on the ability to clearly and concisely address presidential candidates, awareness of energy issues, a logical presentation of arguments and facts, and creativity and originality.

Editors from Newsweek, IndustryWeek, Snips sister publications Environmental Design & Construction, Sustainable Facility, Mission Critical and Greener World Media judged the top 10 entries, which came from Boston University, Carnegie Mellon, Duke University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University, University of South Carolina, University of Arkansas, University of Cincinnati, University of Montana, and University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Winners were selected based on points awarded by the judges.