Antonia “Toni” Ginsberg-Klemmt is well-known for making waves.
Whether the New College third-year student is captaining rowers on the waterfront or studying physics on campus, she has earned a reputation for being an unstoppable force. And on Sunday, her brilliance was recognized nationally.
Ginsberg-Klemmt was chosen out of thousands of applicants countrywide as one of this year’s OZY Genius Award recipients. The $10,000 annual honor is awarded to 10 college students pursuing “projects or ideas that have a positive impact on society.” Her patent-pending invention is called GismoPower—a mobile solar carport with an integrated electric vehicle charger that she designed for the New College campus.
“This award has me believing in myself and my capacity to make a change for good in the world,” Ginsberg-Klemmt said.
And Ginsberg-Klemmt is in good company. For example, National Youth Poet Laureate and 2021 inauguration poet Amanda Gorman was an OZY Genius Award winner in 2017. Ginsberg-Klemmt, who is pursuing physics and environmental studies at New College, was among 25 student finalists this year. The winners were announced at the 2021 OZY Fest over the weekend, which included guest speakers Dr. Anthony Fauci, Mark Cuban and Malcolm Gladwell.
Ginsberg-Klemmt’s invention was part of an Independent Study Project (ISP) during the January Interterm at New College. GismoPower stands for “Garage/Interior Storable Modular Photovoltaic on Wheels and Evcharger Rack.”
“I thought of this idea when I would go to charge my car at Heiser [science building on campus] and kept noticing how insanely hot it was to get in my car after it had been sitting outside in the sun for hours. I also noticed that there are no EV charging stations on the residential side of campus,” said Ginsberg-Klemmt, who grew up in Sarasota. “When my dad and I started brainstorming about creating a carport with solar panels, we realized that there would be several issues with it, including permitting for stationary structures, as well as what to do with the system in case of a hurricane. That’s when the idea of putting wheels on the system made the whole concept a game changer, because it turned the entire system into an appliance instead of a stationary structure.”
But creating GismoPower wasn’t an inexpensive undertaking. So Ginsberg-Klemmt sought out funding through opportunities like the OZY Genius Awards.
“Solar panels are not cheap and GismoPower is a robust system. I have a working prototype right now, charging my car in the driveway and sending the surplus energy back to the grid, offsetting the energy used by our house,” Ginsberg-Klemmt said. “This award will primarily help us fund the cost of a second system for New College, as well as the improvement of its design and its components. Once we have that down, we hope that angel investors will be inspired to get involved so GismoPower can be used across the nation.”
Ginsberg-Klemmt hopes the new national recognition of GismoPower will help amplify her vision of global solar energy usage (and bring attention to New College’s renewable energy efforts). To her, winning an OZY Genius Award proved that “there are others out there who are just as passionate and excited about solar energy,” she said.
“It also means that GismoPower is a unique invention whose time has come. It means the local, state, national and—who knows—maybe even global market is ready to hook into and contribute to the energy system for good,” Ginsberg-Klemmt said. “And it means that we can now put New College and the Sunshine State on the map for innovative disruption to the status quo.”
Innovating is a skill that Ginsberg-Klemmt has honed at New College. The state’s designated honors college is a learning environment that continually empowers her to set and reach lofty goals. Pursuing an ISP in January—during an annual interterm geared toward self-led research—gave Ginsberg-Klemmt the intellectual freedom to fully explore her ideas for GismoPower.
“At New College, creativity and output is valued more than regurgitating academia. Students here are encouraged not just to dream big but to implement those dreams into reality,” she said. “From the day you come on campus, the message you get from this college is: Your ideas are valuable. Your contribution to your own learning process and society as a whole is valuable and worthy of attention and respect—whether you are a dancer or a scientist, a poet or a mathematician (or, in my case, a mermaid, a rower and a mad inventor).”
New College also set the stage for another one of Ginsberg-Klemmt’s history-making feats. In March, she took New Crew SRQ—a rowing team she had founded on campus in September 2019—into the community, helping make it the first multi-school collegiate rowing team on the Florida Suncoast. It is now part of an official partnership between New College and the Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates Inc. (SANCA)—the nonprofit organization that operates and manages Nathan Benderson Park for Sarasota County.
Ginsberg-Klemmt is the team’s captain. A rower since seventh grade, she has always been fascinated with hydrodynamics, green energy and marine engineering, and her athletic and academic interests often overlap at New College.
“I hope that the initiation of New Crew, and the national recognition from the OZY award, will promote New College and help increase enrollment (and an interest in physics and other science areas of concentration),” Ginsberg-Klemmt said.
New Crew SRQ Faculty Adviser Amy Reid, Ph.D. (a New College professor of French and gender studies), is a steadfast supporter of Ginsberg-Klemmt’s endeavors. She couldn’t be prouder of her student’s OZY award.
“Whether in a lab or a classroom, coaching or networking, Toni is an inspiration,” Reid said. “She is not just hardworking and determined—her energy and passion are contagious. Toni is a true leader and a solid bet for success.”
Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.