LSU women engineering team wins first place at international design contest

Four women majoring in environmental engineering at Louisiana State University won a first-place award in the 16th Annual Environmental Design Contest (EDC) April 2-6, hosted by WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development, administered through the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University.

Judea Goins, Leah Lemoine, Rachel Stich and Ashley Theall worked on Task 1 of the eight challenges presented to the university teams: arsenic treatment for rural, isolated communities.

“We know we’re doing something special when we look at the typical ratio of male to female in engineering programs around the world,” said Leah Lemoine. “Interestingly, there are growing numbers of women majoring in environmental versus other types of engineering.”

“Several years ago, it was uncommon to find a team of women engineers at the Design Contest,” said Patricia Sullivan, assistant dean of the College of Engineering at NMSU. “These young women exemplify the diversity taking place nationwide in the field of engineering and they are to be commended for their success in taking first place among a group of highly competitive engineering students.”

The engineering team from Michigan Tech won second place in the arsenic removal category, while the Judge’s Choice award went to Budapest University of Technology and Economics, for effective technology transfer in the poster presentation segment. The arsenic removal task relates directly to new EPA drinking water standards that lowered the maximum allowable arsenic content from 50 parts per billion to 10 ppb, putting a strain on small water systems in areas with high levels of naturally occurring arsenic.

Innovative research, technological advances, and unique solutions to real environmental problems posed by companies and agencies were the result of the EDC. Seven student-developed technologies have been deployed at U.S. Department of Energy sites over the course of the 16 years of the contest, the only design contest in the world that provides a competitive challenge and means of interaction for university and high school students and practicing professionals involved in environmentally based fields.

Teams from Hungary, Canada, Mexico and the United States participated this year.

The Montana Tech team won first place in Task 2, development of a low-energy-use desalination system, and Task 5, removal of tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH) from a liquid-waste collection system, which is critical in the semi-conductor industry. The 13-member team also won the top award for a combination of Task 3, cleaning of a water distribution system; Task 4, food facility decontamination; Task 6, eliminating black smoke from diesel operations; and Task 7, carbon sequestration.

Environmental engineering major Ryan Sitzes from the University of Missouri at Rolla won a special award for perseverance, determination and courage. Sitzes entered the Environment Design Contest as the lone team member from Rolla, competing in Task 5, removal of hydroxide from semiconductor waste streams. Typically teams consist of four to 10 members.

Almost 50 judges, environmental and engineering authorities from industry, government, and academia, used more than 8,000 criteria to judge 42 teams on written papers, oral presentations, working bench-scale models and poster presentations.

The NMSU team – chemical engineering majors Byung-Hwan Chu, Helen Lane, Brian Lusby, Aous Manshad and Naomi Tapia – won a USDA Teamwork Award for Task 6, eliminating black smoke from diesel operations.

The University of New Mexico team, all from chemical engineering also, included David Gorm, Trisha Padilla, Emily Pincus and Alicia Sanchez. UNM won second place in the Task 2 category, development of a low-energy-use desalination system.

EDC events also featured Commissioner Peter B. Lyons of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the keynote speaker at an environmental design colloquium, an Engineering and Technology Career Expo and the first Collegiate Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition.

The WERC consortium consists of NMSU (administrative location), the University of New Mexico, New Mexico Tech, Dine College and Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. For more information call WERC at (505) 646-2038.

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