UNM Team Wins WERC Design Competition

April 14, 2009

A student design team from the Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Department has won a Waste Environment Research Consortium (WERC ) Environmental Design Competition.

The students have been working on the projects since November as part of their capstone senior year design course. They competed against 31 teams from 21 universities throughout the United States and Canada.

Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Department Chair Tim L. Ward teaches the course, and Eric Carnes, a faculty advisor and lecturer assisted them with the project.

Geoff Courtin, a research engineer who works with the students estimates they each have more than 100 hours work invested in the projects.

Another UNM design team came in second in their project competition, which involved designing a pretreatment system for desalinizing brackish water in Tularosa. Marta Cooperstein, Cynthia Douthit, Jonathan Paiz, and Anne Helleburst (l to r) all worked on the research, cost analysis, and bench demonstration project.

Courtin says, “It brings together elements they have learned in various classes and helps them use it in a practical way.” As the students put together the projects, they worked with the Mechanical Engineering Department to actually construct some elements of the bench demonstration.

They also worked with local attorneys to make sure the projects meet state and federal environmental regulations and with UNM Safety and Risk Services to make sure projects could meet federal OSHA regulations. The students also had to determine what kind of personnel training would be required if the projects were actually built.

The students had to prove their projects would be cost effective, and they had to consider what would happen to the waste products. Since the students are about to graduate, they say this competition gave them a taste of what they will have to do when they are hired by engineering firms.

Courtin says several engineering firms have an eye on the students in the competition. He’s already received calls asking for the resumes of the students who are involved.