ASCE students win nationals

In late October, our American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) students not only traveled to Chicago to attend the ASCE Annual Convention, but they won the Innovation Contest!  The Innovation Contest consists of a two and a half minute pitch of their idea followed by ten minutes of questions from the judges.  Through their pitch, the students have to prove three key aspects of their project: it is innovative, technologically feasible, and economically viable.  

Their project was titled “The use of engineered algae to biochemically remove micro and nano plastics in wastewater”.  The team co-Chairs were Jordan Landis and Justin Sprumont.  Other students were Katherine (Katie) McKendrick, Emma Fredericks from Bioinformatics, Jarrod Vonkchalee, Luke Bender and Abigail Rose.  Dr. Olya Keen is the Innovation Team mentor, and Dr. Erika Weber (not pictured) is the ASCE chapter faculty advisor.  

The students proposed to use bioengineered algae to treat wastewater effluent to remove microplastics and nanoplastics.  The students did the calculations for the size of the reactors they needed, showed where they would be located at one of the local wastewater treatment plants, and calculated the costs and the savings compared to using regular wastewater treatment processes.  They proposed to use algal mass for biofuel production, and showed that with the implementation of this process they would not need microbial nutrient removal as would currently be done with algae.  They also had to plan for containment of the algae as it is bioengineered, and needs to be kept from the natural environment.  Their design is now in the process of being patented.

ASCE is sunsetting this contest, ensuring that UNC Charlotte’s ASCE students will go down in history as winning the National Innovation Contest both the first time and the last time this competition was held.  Congratulations to our students on an impressive achievement!

Students pictured with their project presentation and project mentor, Dr. Olya Keen. (left to right: Jarrod Vonkchalee, Katie McKendrick, Jordan Landis, Dr. Olya Keen, Luke Bender, Emma Fredericks, Justin Sprumont, & Abigail Rose)