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The Cool as Ice Team: left-right. James Durand, Nathan Putnam, Amanda Cuellar and Cassandra Telenko ham it up for the camera with a refrigerator.

The Cool as Ice Team: left-right. James Durand, Nathan Putnam, Amanda Cuellar and Cassandra Telenko ham it up for the camera with a refrigerator.

The Student Engineering Council (SEC) is hosting the first Alternative Energy Challenge (AEC.), organized by Andrew Bellay, Chemical Engineering and Plan II student. The purpose of the Alternative Energy Challenge is to promote awareness and technical problem-solving for alternative energy, and to facilitate teamwork, leadership, and hands-on engineering experiences for students in the College of Engineering. Interdisciplinary teams of three to four engineers compete to design and build the best device to capture energy from the environment in a green and sustainable way. Seventeen teams, composed of 66 engineers from all engineering disciplines, registered for the competition. Teams were given three weeks, from February 16th to March 6th, to design a device that was scalable, durable, original, attractive, and captured energy from the environment and submit a proposal. On Tuesday, March 10th, six teams, selected from the original seventeen, presented their designs to a panel of judges - engineering professors with an interest in alternative energy. Based on the judges' ratings, four of these teams received a budget of $1,000 each from the SEC to build their devices.

A few students turned out to see the presentations and devices in RLM 4.102. The first place design team received $1000 in prize money in addition to the build budget and was composed of three Mechanical Engineering students, Nathan Putnam, Cassandra Telenko, and James Durand, as well as one Chemical Engineering student, Amanda Cuellar. The second place team received $750 and the third place team received $500 in prize money. The presentations will soon be available on record to students in the engineering library. The SEC wants to make the Alternative Energy Challenge a yearly competition.

Results were as follows:

  1. Cool as Ice
    • Nathan Putnam (M.E./ Ph.D.)
    • Cassandra Telenko (M.E. M.S./Ph.D.)
    • Amanda Cuellar (Ch.E. Plan II)
    • James Durand (M.E. Junior)
    • Design Concept: A solar-powered absorption ice-maker to cooler beverages and replace outdoor vending machines on campus. According to George "Jeff" Woodruff, the Vending Coordinator here on campus, The University of Texas at Austin has 56 soda and ice cream vending machines located outdoors. Hot outdoor temperatures can drastically reduce the efficiency of outdoor refrigeration. The proposed design by Cool As Ice uses the source of inefficiency, solar heat, as power in addition to replacing the need for electricity from power plants.
  2. The Noobs
    • Micah Scheler (M.E. Senior)
    • Mason Welch (Arc.E. Senior)
    • Zephyr Lutz-Carrillo (B.M.E. Senior)
    • Design Concept: A platform that harnesses energy from daily human actions/movement
  3. Amped Up Solar
    • Tim Erickson (B.M.E. Graduate Student)
    • Tanin Nazmul (M.E. Junior)
    • Robert Heath (E.E. Senior)
    • Hyunji Lim (B.M.E. Graduate Student)
    • Design Concept: NASTEX (nanoshell-assisted solar energy conversion system). This device will employ a large, lightweight Fresnel lens to concentrate sunlight onto a highly-absorbing target in order to efficiently convert solar energy into heat. Generated heat will be used to superheat water, in order to supplement or replace a conventional home hot water system. The device is equipped with several DC motors, light sensors, and a microcontroller, which will enable the device to adjust the lens position and angle to maximize solar harvesting. With an estimated price tag of $800, the group hopesto produce a market competitive device, which will offer both a high return on dollar investment and a fast energy payback time.
  4. Equilibri Sun
    • Alexander Ross (M.E. Junior)
    • Kuok Yuen The (M.E. Junior)
    • Carlos Machado (M.E. Junior)
    • Matthew Del Rio (Ch.E. Junior)
    • Design Concept: A novel, low cost, fuel cell.

The build phase of the competition is currently underway, with some of the devices being showcased at a location allotted at Pickle Research Campus. After six more weeks of intense work, each team will present their finished device along with actual energy production data from their device. Ultimately, the team whose device works best will win the competition and receive the $3,000 grand prize.


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