Sustainability is central to all engineering projects and is becoming even more critical as our concern for environmental health is exacerbated by climate change and the need to produce “green” energy and conserve precious resources. Our global environment and economy are so inextricably intertwined that engineers must consider environmental impact in every financial decision they make, which is why the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University is committed to providing engineering students with the resources they need to address this challenge.
Given the growing importance of sustainability, it’s no wonder that undergraduate students in all fields of engineering who can highlight their experience solving environmental issues will be in the highest demand. If you are or know an undergraduate-level engineering student who wants to gain this valuable experience and, at the same time, make a real environmental difference, the WERC Environmental Design Contest might just be the perfect competition to foster an understanding of environmental issues!
The WERC Environmental Design Contest was founded over three decades ago by New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering, creating an opportunity for college students that has led to careers in academia, major engineering firms, and government agencies such as the EPA. Engineering professionals who have participated in the WERC competition have called it “an engineering education opportunity of a lifetime.” Modeled after an engineering Request for Proposals (RFP), this competition asks students to spend 3-6 months as “professional engineers,” creating a complete engineering design, including bench-scale testing and a business plan for full-scale implementation. It also gives students the chance to pitch their business plans during an exciting event called “Flash Talks”, a Shark-Tank-inspired setting where students give a 3-minute pitch of their designs to judges who pose as “investors.”
The contest culminates with oral presentations and bench-scale demonstrations in Las Cruces, NM, April 16-19, 2023. Winners are eligible for an award pool of $30,000 for their solutions, and top papers are published in IEEE’s Xplore journal. As an amazing bonus, students competing in the WERC Environmental Design Contest have the opportunity to meet with academic, government, and industry experts, providing them with valuable networking contacts to advance their research and potential career opportunities.
In 2022, a student reflected, “The interaction with the judges made this an even greater learning experience that we will carry into our careers. They helped us understand practical limitations and issues based on their real-world experiences.”
For the 2023 competition, students can choose from six project topics – “tasks” – all of which are designed by businesses and organizations with an immediate interest in competitors’ solutions to real-world problems. There are tasks for most fields of engineering. A seventh open task is also available for teams who want to select their own challenge to solve. The tasks this season are:
- Beneficial wastewater reuse for rural communities
- Vehicle-to-grid resiliency
- Reducing water loss in mine tailings facilities
- Detecting microplastics in reservoirs
- Ammonia recovery from produced water
- A NASA task – to be determined
- Open task
How to Get Involved
Interested in the WERC Environmental Design Contest? Check out their guidelines to see if you or your team would be eligible. Sign up for their informational webinar on either July 20, 2022, or August 10, 2022 at 12:00PM Mountain Time to learn more about how to get started!
Informational webinars are 45 minutes long and give future competitors an introduction to the contest and the “hows” and “whys” of getting involved. Faculty, government, and industry speakers will be present to explain how the tasks are developed, how teams receive mentoring from professional engineers, and strategies for participating in the competition!