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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Environmental Design Contest to focus on water and renewable energy

Under the recently formed Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) and the College of Engineering, New Mexico State University is advancing applied engineering solutions to critical environmental challenges through its Environmental Design Contest, an annual international competition set for April 1-5 this year.

In this file photo, a University of Arkansas team competes in a previous Environmental Design Contest at NMSU. Left to right are Mark Ferguson, Christina Haley, and Long Tran. (Courtesy photo)

The Design Contest, sponsored by private and public entities such as Intel, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Food and Drug Administration and the American Water Works Association and Research Foundation, has deployed seven student-developed technologies at industrial and DOE sites over the 17-year course of the contest.

The design challenges presented in the upcoming competition relate to water and renewable energy - two areas critical to the state's legislative initiatives symbolized by Gov. Bill Richardson's call to be the "clean energy state" as he declared 2007 the "Year of Water."

The 2007 international challenge will engage 34 teams from 22 universities. Almost 170 students from across the U.S., as well as teams from Budapest, Hungary, Universidad de Las Americas in Mexico, and the University of Manitoba, Canada, will compete. In a concurrent high school design contest, 125 students from eight schools will develop solutions to the same design challenges with various options for the younger competitors. NMSU has two teams competing for cash prizes, traveling trophies and worldwide recognition.

Government agencies, industrial affiliates and academic partners play a key role in the design contest, assisting IEE in the development of design problems and evaluation criteria, providing financial support for site-specific issues and serving as judges for the final competition. Design teams showcase their work through research papers, oral and poster presentations and bench-scale demonstrations. Their scientific approach must consider regulatory guidelines, public opinion and cost.

"The institute fosters an inter-disciplinary research agenda to address environmental sustainability," said Abbas Ghassemi, IEE director. "Our flagship event, the International Environmental Design Contest is evolving into its 17th year addressing immediate areas of concern, and it is as timely and relevant as ever. We continue to evolve the application of real solutions to real problems affecting quality of life for everyone."

Steven Castillo, dean of the NMSU College of Engineering, is excited about the contest and the engineering solutions that result from it.

"Providing inexpensive, clean sources of energy to support continued economic growth is one of the biggest challenges we face in the coming years," Castillo said. "IEE is becoming a focal point for NMSU faculty from disparate disciplines to solve difficult technical problems and support the production of world-class engineers in these important areas."

This year's Design Contest tasks include:

? Develop a photovoltaic (solar panel) system performance indicator to determine that a residential utility-interactive PV system is operating properly and that the AC power output is following the solar power available to the PV array.

? Develop an inland desalination operation and disposal system (for water) in rural, isolated communities to demonstrate a low-cost, simple and reliable system.

? Convert a biomass resource to useful forms of energy and other products to demonstrate options using biogas or liquids.

The Institute for Energy and the Environment in the NMSU College of Engineering consists of WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development; the Southwest Technology Development Institute, a renewable energy research and development group; and the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, a nuclear waste-management and monitoring center. For more information contact Ghassemi at (505) 646-2038 or visit www.werc.net/