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NMSU Environmental Design Contest fuels clean energy economy

New Mexico State University's Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE) in the College of Engineering is leading development of sustainable solutions to environmental challenges through its 18th international competition, the Environmental Design Contest at the Pan Am Center April 6-9.



The Universidad de las Américas team from Puebla, Mexico, demonstrate their biodiesel (clean burning alternative fuel) bench scale model at the 17th International Environmental Design Contest in 2007. The Institute for Energy and the Environment/WERC in NMSU's College of Engineering hosts the annual competition the second week of April. (Photo courtesy of Tom Freelove IEE/WERC)

The highly competitive event features 33 teams from 23 universities including 190 participants from around the United States, Bogazici University in Turkey, the Universities of Manitoba and Waterloo in Canada, and a team from Universidad de las Américas in Puebla, Mexico. Also featured will be a final showcase of National Science Foundation projects undertaken in partnership with three universities in Mexico and two in New Mexico.

This year's design tasks are based on real-world environmental challenges, focusing on technologies to tackle renewable energy innovation, sustainable building design, and water issues.

Thirteen teams are tackling Task 3: Inland Desalination Operation and Disposal in Rural, Isolated Communities, inviting students to develop and demonstrate a low-cost, energy efficient, simple, and reliable system for brackish water reclamation. This task is sponsored by the American Water Works Association Research Foundation (AWWRF) and is also very relevant because IEE recently received an award from the Office of Naval Research to work with General Electric Water and Process Technologies doing similar research at The Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in the Tularosa Basin in Alamogordo.

This work is particularly important in the Southwest as groundwater is often contaminated with high concentrations of salt. The research is anticipated to create significant knowledge that will improve current desalination processes, reduce costs, and may lead to economically viable technological options for military on-site water purification.

"The recent water award marks another highlight of our group's expertise, leadership, and maturing history of successful partnerships. We are very pleased that our flagship event exemplifies the innovative collaboration among the public and private sector, academia and industry," said Abbas Ghassemi, Executive Director for IEE.

Two other tasks very popular among the engineering teams include: Task 1, Innovative Technologies for an Existing Building, to improve efficiency, performance, and sustainable site development; and Task 5, Separation of Water from Emulsified Oil, to reduce, reuse and recycle manufacturing byproducts and improve general processes in accordance with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold sponsored Task 5.

Environmental engineering students must present a poster and oral presentation, a written report and a bench-scale demonstration to a subset of 45 judges. Teams have the chance to win cash prizes, academic and professional recognition, as well as Intel's Environmental Innovation Award and the newly developed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Travel Award. One student will be awarded the prestigious Terry McManus Memorial Award.

Sponsors for the event include AWWRF, Intel Corporation, National Science Foundation, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the EPA.

The public is welcome and encouraged to attend the contest Tuesday, April 8, in the Pan American Center and admission is free. New Mexico Attorney General Gary K. King will give a presentation on legal issues and the environment in Corbett Center Ballroom on the third floor at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, April 6.

The NMSU College of Engineering integrated three Centers of Excellence to form the Institute for Energy and the Environment. IEE partners include WERC, a consortium for environmental education and technology development, Southwest Technology Development Institute, a renewable energy research and development group, and Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, a nuclear waste-management and monitoring center. For more information, contact Abbas Ghassemi, IEE Director at (800) 523-5996 or (575) 646-2038, or visit http://iee.nmsu.edu or www.werc.net.