Chemical Engineering Students Place 1st at the WERC (Waste management Education Research Consortium) International Design Contest

Tuesday, April 29


Three teams of UI Chemical Engineering students, led by Dr. David Drown, competed at the 2014 WERC Design contest in Las Cruces, New Mexico April 6-9. Our Task 5 team received the 1st place award with their “Sunshine Island Floating, Tracking Solar Power System”. Seniors Michael Cron, St. John Richardson, Kelsey VanderWaal, and junior Brenna Wong developed the winning project. They were in competition against teams from seven other universities in the combined Tasks 2, 3, 4 and 5.

The contest presents real world problems each year for the students to solve. The team that won 1st place was in Task 5 “Floating Solar Cells”. The problem the students were to solve was to design and develop floating solar cells that continue to float and do not get trapped in tailing storage facilities during the mining operation. This could potentially prevent evaporation over the tailing ponds’ large surface areas while producing enough power to help run pumps that return water back to the mine. The process could save energy and water – two valuable commodities in mining.

This year marks the 20th year that Chemical Engineering design teams have participated in this competition. There have been 165 students who participated, winning 46 awards, 16 of which were first place awards! Most of the students have been Chemical Engineering, but there have been a number from other disciplines as well. This year Megan Eimers, an English student, participated as a technical writing advisor for the research reports submitted as one of the requirements for each team.

All three of the UI 2014 WERC projects will be displayed at the Engineering Design Expo on May 2. Their oral presentations will be part of the CME Technical session between 9:20 and noon. Sunshine Island’s Floating, Tracking Solar Power System poster will be displayed. The Task 4 Solar Brine Concentrator and Task 1 Electrocoagulation projects will have booth displays.