Writer: By Therese Shakra
This year marks the 20th anniversary of NMSU’s International Environmental Design Contest created to bring innovative technologies to the marketplace. More than 5,000 students have participated in the engineering challenge focused on evolving proprietary technologies covering complex environmental challenges related to energy, water and overall sustainability. The Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) produces the event each year on New Mexico State University’s main Las Cruces campus.
The highly competitive event this year featured 24 teams from 17 universities including Canada and Mexico, all working on design tasks that focused on solar panel performance, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from mines, and water treatment. Water, one of IEE’s growing subject areas, is a defining issue as it becomes to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century, a priceless commodity. One has to consider water when examining national security and renewable energy nexus.
The University of Idaho emerged as the winner of most awards including first place for Task 4, developing alternative filters for turbid water, the Intel Innovation award, and the combined prize for Task 2/3, photovoltaic performance indictor and greenhouse gas reductions. Prize money for the team totaled $7,000. Other winners included 1st place Canadian team University of Waterloo for Task 1, portable siphon unit for water, 2nd place went to Montana Tech for the same task ($1,000), and University of California at Riverside received 2nd place for the combined Task 2/3, taking home $1,000.
The Outstanding Award for best oral and paper presentation of $750 went to the California Poly Tech team, while Andrew Wait, an environmental engineering major from the Colorado School of Mines, won the Terry McManus outstanding student award of $500. The final award went to 1st place winner for Task 4, the University of Arkansas.
All the challengers in Las Cruces this week presented a poster and oral presentation, a written report and a bench-scale demonstration to a subset of about 40 judges from industry, academia and government. Teams have the chance to win cash prizes, academic and professional recognition, as well as forming lifelong bonds with other participants.
“This contest is all about human capital. Many of the competitors in the design contest are now working in public and private sectors, keenly aware of the complex issues facing us all. We’re training the next generation of leaders pursuing environmental solutions through research and application on many fronts,” said Abbas Ghassemi, IEE executive director.
This year’s keynote speaker grew up in El Paso and is familiar with the Southwest. Alfredo “Al” Armendariz, Ph.D., was appointed by President Obama last year as the Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6 in Dallas. This jurisdiction encompasses Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and 66 Tribal Nations. Armendariz spoke on the EPA’s seven priorities and how the design contest tasks are aligned with those priorities, including Action on Climate Change, Improving Air Quality, Assuring the Safety of Chemicals in Commerce, and Protecting America’s Drinking Water and Waterways.
The Water Research Foundation consistently sponsors the annual environmental contest. This year was no exception and sponsors included Intel Corporation, the Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research, State of New Mexico, Freeport-Mcmoran, Copper and Gold, the Pan American Center, and the Food and Drug Administration.
The NMSU College of Engineering integrated three Centers of Excellence to form IEE including WERC, Southwest Technology Development Institute, and the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center. For more information, contact Abbas Ghassemi, IEE Director, at (800) 523-5996 or (575) 646-2038, or visit http://iee.nmsu.edu/