Writer: Yadira Corral
New Mexico State University will host the 24th annual Environmental Design Contest, where hundreds of students from around the world have the opportunity to showcase their original designs for solutions to real-world problems.
NMSU’s WERC, a Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development, will host the contest from April 6 to 9. This event brings together government, private sector and academia in an effort to develop technological solutions to environmental challenges. Students have the opportunity to choose from five different tasks that focus on different environmental problems.
The first task is to identify a real-life environmental, energy or water-related issue and the market for the solution to this issue. The students will design and demonstrate the proposed solution, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the solution versus current technologies and other possible approaches.
The objective of the drinking water stabilization task is to find the best fortification for desalted water, most commonly obtained from reverse osmosis processes. Students must identify minerals that would improve taste and prevent the water from leaching minerals from the skeletal system. Students must also review nutritional requirements for people and livestock, and address the additional benefit of protecting the water distribution system from corrosion.
In the third task, students must develop a novel system for maximum power point tracking for solar energy and demonstrate its cost effectiveness by measuring the additional power generation versus the cost of the components and the power required for operation. Students must quantify the difference in power generation with and without the solar tracking device, and conduct a lifecycle cost analysis of the solar system with and without the tracking device.
Students will design a low-cost, low-energy and safe solar brine concentrator as the fourth task. Participants will design and test the process, using easily obtained materials for collecting and processing salt water to produce agricultural-grade salts.
The final task is to design and develop floating solar cells that continue to float and do not get trapped in tailing storage facilities during mining operations. Teams must compare and quantify the advantages of their proposed system with existing systems and conduct a lifecycle cost analysis for implementation of the proposed system.
Twenty universities from around the country will participate in this year’s contest including California Polytechnic State University (Pomona and San Luis Obispo), Louisiana State University, Montana Tech of the University of Montana, Northern Arizona University, Ohio University, Purdue University, Roger Williams University, University of Arkansas, University of Idaho, University of Maryland and the University of New Hampshire.
Several of these universities use the contest as part of their capstone design courses. After the contest, WERC provides students with the judges’ feedback, which has become an important part of accreditation through ABET, a certification agency for academic programs in the disciplines of applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology.
For more information on the Environmental Design Contest, contact program coordinator Barbara Valdez at 575-646-7821 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.