Student teams awarded more than $16,000 at IEE’s Environmental Design Contest

Writer: Mattie Hensley

NMSU’s Institute for Energy and the Environment, part of the College of Engineering, hosted their flagship event, the International Environmental Design Contest, April 3-6 in Las Cruces, NM. Awards received during the contest totaled $16,250. Contestants traveled from around the U.S. and Canada to showcase their innovative solutions. Teams from 14 different universities competed this year, with industry professionals from Intel Corp., Sandia National Laboratories, and Los Alamos National Laboratory, and others, judging the competition.

University of California, Riverside

The University of California, Riverside received first place for their technique to alleviate scale problems in water in combined tasks 1-6

The contest challenges student to solve technical problems such as developing methods for carbon sequestration and disinfecting rural water sources. Students present and demonstrate their research and design solutions. The proposed solutions could provide opportunities to address concerns about industrial pollution and could alleviate post-crises pressures, such as the lack of drinkable water after a disaster such as the recent tsunami in Japan.

“All of you collectively are doing a great thing,” Ricardo Jacquez, dean of the College of Engineering at NMSU said to the student teams in his closing remarks. Engineers and scientists, he said, create technology, business, industry, and ultimately wealth to contribute to the strength of the nation. He then urged the contestants to catch up on sleep, which was in short supply during the intensive four-day contest.

Keynote speaker John Peichel, Global Technology Leader at General Electric’s Water & Process Technologies, spoke of growing global energy and water needs during his presentation at the contest. Fifty percent of global industrial water is used for energy sources, he stated, pointing to the connection between water and energy, a major component of the IEE’s mission. Peichel also pointed to predictions that global electricity needs will double by the year 2030, while water demands will triple.

“Water and energy are intricately linked,” he stated.

In the end, tasks 1 through 6 were combined for judging purposes. The University of California, Riverside received first place for their technique to alleviate scale problems in water. Second place went to Roger Williams University for their design of a “manual massage for leafy greens” which detects pathogens in vegetables such as lettuce and spinach–all recent sources of salmonella outbreaks. A University of Idaho team was awarded a prize for their innovation and simplicity of design for removal of bacteria from cantaloupe rinds. Best Oral Presentation went to another University of Idaho team which designed a solution for reverse osmosis membrane reading. The team from South Dakota School of Mines received an award for Best Engineering Analysis for their solution to a carbon sequestration challenge.

Task 7, Clean Energy Water Disinfection for Small, Remote Rural Communities, had 10 teams competing for first place. Among those, University of Idaho (which had three teams in the competition) was awarded first place. The second place design came from University of Arkansas. The solution proposed by University of Arkansas provides water disinfection using clean energy and is portable to rural communities. The University of Arkansas team said they will graduate in 14 days and hope to use their summer to take their solution to a location where it can be used. Montana Tech won the Best Paper category. Louisiana State University won an award for their Clean Energy Portable Safe Drinking Water System.

Kordelle Martens, a student at Montana Tech says his team selected task 7 because of its bearing on current global conditions.

“We felt like task 7 would be one of the ones that would have the most immediate impact…would be the most helpful to third-world countries and disaster stricken areas,” he stated.

Similarly, Alisa Bishop of the Ohio University Team stated, “We selected task 7 because it was an interesting project and something we could relate to as there are a lot of rural areas around here.”

Both Montana Tech and Ohio University have placed well in previous years’ competitions.

Other awards included the Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Innovation and Sustainability Award, the Intel Environmental Innovation Award, and the Terry McManus Memorial Award. The award recipients were University of Waterloo, University of Arkansas, and James Gutierrez of University of California, Riverside, respectively.

This year, the contest was sponsored by the state of New Mexico, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Intel Corporation, the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. More information is available online at

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