Engineering challenge features national winners

By Therese Shakra

New Mexico State University’s Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) in the College of Engineering held its 18th international competition, the Environmental Design Contest at the Pan American Center in early April. Seven university teams won design task challenges and 10 won special awards. Award money totaled $25,000 for the winners representing 32 teams from 22 universities across the United States, Canada, Turkey and Mexico.

Since 1990, 4,400 participants from almost 90 universities including a dozen international institutions have come to Las Cruces to design cutting-edge sustainable technology solutions that combat real-world environmental problems. Many of these engineering students have gone on to develop innovations suitable for patenting and have evolved into the growing profession of renewable energy technology development.

IEE, specializing in renewable energy technology development posed five design challenges to more than 180 students participating in this year’s design contest.

Linda Riley, Ph.D., engineering professor, led the Roger Williams University team from Bristol, R.I., winning the most awards, including a first-place tie for Task 1, Innovative Technologies for an Existing Commercial Building, the Intel Award for Innovation, and one individual team member award, the Terry McManus Memorial Award, and the Environmental Science Forum Travel Award–all totaling $5,500.

The University of New Hampshire won three awards totaling $3,000, including a tie for Task 1, and two special category awards including an award to present their design solution at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Science Forum in Washington, D.C., in late May. The New Hampshire project was titled EARTH (Education, Awareness, Reduction,Technology nd Holistic Approach) an integrated plan to retrofit a building in the Southwest after extensive energy and water audits. The EPA forum is focused on innovative technologies in environmental protection as well as the economic success of our nation in the global environment.

Next in line was the University of Arkansas, winning second place for Task 3, Inland Desalination Operation and Disposal in Rural, Isolated Communities and first place for Task 5, Separation of Water from Emulsified Oil, which led to $3,500 in prize money. The University of Arkansas team also won another $2,500 for the ORAU Award: the design solution closest to a patent implementation process. ORAU, the Oak Ridge Associated Universities, is a university consortium leveraging the scientific strength of major research institutions to advance science and education.

Oregon State University won first place for the combination of Tasks 2 and 4: Photovoltaic System Performance Indicator and Sampling Strategy for Spinach. In addition, their team’s faculty adviser accepted the inaugural Life-Log Achievement Award. Goran Jovaovic, associate professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, attended his 16th and final year in the competition having brought more than 100 students to NMSU, providing each of them an educational experience not achieved through general coursework.

“He has consistently gone above and beyond the call of duty to selflessly nurture and improve student leaders who will have an impact on this world. He has exhibited sustained excellence for almost two decades and we salute him,” said Abbas Ghassemi, IEE executive director.

Bahram Nassersharif, professor of mechanical engineering and applied mechanics served as faculty adviser for the University of Rhode Island team, which was led by student Matthew Reuter. This first-year team received an award for Outstanding Bench Craftsmanship for the bench-scale component of the four presentation segments required of all teams: bench-scale, poster, paper and oral presentation.

Guest speakers for the contest included Evaristo J. (Tito) Bonano, manager Yucca Mountain Project; and Gary King, New Mexico Attorney General, who said, “I am the only one in New Mexico who has written legislation with differential equations in it.”

As a scientist, King used the formulas when he wrote environmental legislation.


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