University of Calgary

Junior design gold

March 20, 2009

Schulich students tie for first place in national engineering competition

The Schulich design team with their trophy from the Canadian Engineering Competition. Left to right: Dustin Bahler, Paul Boone,

The Schulich design team with their trophy from the Canadian Engineering Competition. L-R: Dustin Bahler, Paul Boone, Agnes Soos, Zachary Dunnewold
The team of second-year Schulich School of Engineering students who won Gold in junior design at the Western Engineering Competition two months ago have gone on to tie for first place in a similar category at the national level.

At the Dustin Bahler, Paul Boone, Zachary Dunnewold and Agnes Soos competed at the 25th annual Canadian Engineering Competition (CEC) at the University of New Brunswick March 5 – 8. They tied for first place with students from the Université de Sherbrooke in the Team Design category.

Teams were challenged to solve a design problem by applying basic engineering principles. The objectives and constraints of the problem were only revealed on competition day and each team was required to prepare a presentation for a panel of judges and demonstrate a working physical prototype.

The Schulich School of Engineering team had to come up with a drying system to dehydrate mushrooms, a process used by farmers in Zambia to preserve wild mushrooms for export. The team had only four hours to plan, design, cost and build the system. The judges put it to the test with a heat lamp and real mushrooms, basing a portion of the marks on how many mushrooms actually dried out.

“At first, we were wondering how on earth we were going to come up with something good. The main problem is you can’t test it beforehand. It either works or it doesn’t,” explains Soos. “We had to think about all the possible things that could happen.”

They used lumber, cardboard, nylon screen and aluminum foil to put together three nylon screen trays with foil along the bottom. The Schulich team’s design was quite different than the one from the Université de Sherbrooke students, who insulated their entire prototype with foil. The teams tied for first place because their rates of water loss were similar.

The competition was an exercise in creative thinking and teamwork for the Schulich students, who are specializing in a variety of engineering areas: Bahler and Dunnewold in civil, Boone in mechanical and Soos in chemical engineering with a biomedical specialization.

“I think our key to success was taking a long time to actually plan it out,” says Boone. “We bounced ideas off each other, sketched them out and debated the advantages and flaws of each. We all brought different ideas to the mix.”

The theme of the CEC 2009 was “inventing our future” and challenged students to think about the long-term impact and practicality of their designs. The CEC is a unique opportunity for undergraduate engineering students across the country to demonstrate their range of professional and industry-based skills in a competitive environment. It brings undergraduates together with event partners from industry, government and academia.

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