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04-15-2009

Clarkson University Environmental Team Takes First Place in International Environmental Competition

The Clarkson University Remediation Engineers (CURE) student team won first place for their zero waste solution at the 19th Annual Environmental Design Contest last week in Las Cruces, N.M.

The team is part of the University’s SPEED (Student Projects for Engineering Experience and Design) program.

The CURE team received a trophy and a $2,500 prize for their combined treatment processes and off-site recycling/reuse options that resulted in the desired zero waste criteria for the competition. Their processes aimed specifically at the recovery of reusable solvents, energy and water, which is a scare commodity in the desert southwest.

Six members of the 28-member student team travelled to New Mexico State University for the competition. They set up and demonstrated a bench-scale version of their treatment and energy recovery system and used oral and poster presentation formats to communicate their process to judges.

The students received two gallons of a corrosive solvent waste stream that they treated by distillation to recover high purity water. They worked late into the night and were the only team that successfully treated the entire volume of waste.

The team was commended by the judges for their holistic environmental approach to identifying a process solution.

"Participation in this type of design competition provides Clarkson students with an opportunity to work on real and relevant engineering projects," says team co-advisor Prof. Susan E. Powers, who accompanied the team. "They also have an opportunity to interact with judges who can bring expertise and perspective on aspects of engineering that the students do not often see in the classroom.

"In addition, traveling to far away places such as New Mexico also broadens the students’ perspectives on our nation and world. Deserts, cacti and close proximity to Mexico and Hispanic culture were new experiences for most of the travel team."

The engineering challenge is sponsored by WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development. WERC is a partner organization of the Institute for Energy & the Environment. The Environmental Design Contest challenges student teams to develop solutions for real-world environmental problems that have been submitted by various companies and government institutions.

The Clarkson University team, lead by advisors Powers and Prof. Thomas M. Holsen, is made up of a class of more than 25 graduate and undergraduate students. Team members traveling to the competition were seniors Max Martin, environmental engineering, Saranac Lake, N.Y.; Jill A. Collins, civil engineering, Potsdam, N.Y.; Brendan M. Cook, environmental engineering, West Chazy, N.Y.; Wesley A. Hall, environmental engineering, North Tonawanda, N.Y.; Allison M. Hazard, environmental engineering, Mendon, N.Y.; and Michael A. Jahne, environmental engineering, Cambridge, N.Y.

The SPEED program is one of Clarkson’s Wallace H. Coulter School of Engineering hallmark initiatives, exemplifying Clarkson’s "defy convention" approach to education. SPEED promotes multidisciplinary, project-based learning opportunities for more than 350 undergraduates annually. Projects involve engineering design, analysis, and fabrication. In addition, students learn real-world business skills, such as budget management, effective teamwork, and communications skills. SPEED receives its primary financial support from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation with contributions from ExxonMobil, Qualcomm Inc., Alcoa Inc., Cives Steel Company, Turner Construction Company, Babcock Power Inc. and Saint-Gobain Corporation.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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