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…..and the winning team of the fall 2016 first Senior Engineering Challenge was …Madeleine Foster, Sam Hoeferkamp, Camille Russell and Julian Marrero.

First Senior Engineering Challenge

The first ever Senior Engineering Challenge was a success!   Each year, as part of our partnership with Chemical Engineering, we agree to come up with and manage senior design projects for the dual major (PSE-CHE) students taking CHE 450 (CHE Senior Design I).  This year, with an unusually high  number of students taking 450 (25 students on six teams), the decision was made NOT to find a unique design project to assign to each team, as has been done in the past, instead, as a way to promote critical thinking, a single scenario was presented for the challenge.  The teams were asked to competitively search for ways to reduce the net energy consumption for the bleach plant by 20% or more, with a total installed capital limit of $1 million.  In other words,… this time the teams were given the desired goal instead of a suggested project.  The competition rules specified that ONLY the wining team would be able to get a grade of 95% or better, and each team member would be rewarded.

Long Hard Hours and Innovation

The winning team made a plan to come up with as many different projects and then analyze which ones would work the most efficiently, with the money given, and the process.  The winning team proposed three different projects that would attack the energy usage of the bleach plant while staying within the limit of the $1 million budget.  Given only a couple months to create a unique and innovative plan that other teams  would not think of, was challenging for everyone.  In the end, what set this team apart was the use of enzymes in the process.  Enzymes provide a surplus of benefits, including reducing the steam required, which also meant a lower Chlorine dioxide charge was needed.  The enzymes provided potential benefits for later on in the process, such as reduced refining.  The project, completing it well under the $1 million budget and the maximum savings for the mill, gave this team the advantage that allowed them to claim the win.  When Dr. Byrd announced the winner, he wrote “In the end, this decision was based on their methodical, multiple-option approach that left the reader with no doubt as to the level of diligence they had invested.”

Reaping the Benefits

With knowledge and time invested, the group “reaped” the benefits with a hefty reward as each team member received a $400 Best Buy gift card.  We would like to express our thanks for Drs. Lucia and Hubbe, and The BioResources Journal for their vigorous support of (among other things)  our undergraduate programs.  For PSE, they supply funding to a number of projects/programs which enhance the quality of students’ education and lives, including: support of the PIE study abroad experience; scholarships to support undergraduate research; scholarship to recognize outstanding sophomores and scholarships to help students with significant financial needs.  They remain dedicated to our students and their sponsorship is greatly appreciated!

by guest blogger Winslow Gurney