Undergrads Spark Innovative Solutions to Industry Issues

A group of eight undergraduate students from Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engingeering, were invited to Milwaukee for SPARK, an industry based think tank affiliate program of OBG, part of Ramboll Group. Two students, Katrin Chandra and Christopher Lee, were on the 1st place team and were awarded $3,000 prize, while Andrew Lin was on the 2nd place team and awarded $2000 for their solutions.

The students were tasked with industry issues and had to research solutions and present proposals to the solutions in real time. Katrin Chandra’s and Christopher Lee’s group designed a water purification processes for a chemical manufacturing plant. Their client, Hydrite needed ultra-clean water for making PVA. They analyzed their existing process and found that contamination occurs during transport in the pipes. Therefore, they combatted this by adding recirculation loops to prevent water from stagnating and added a UV unit near the point of use. Their solution was selected as a winner because it leveraged the company's existing expertise with UV technology, was cost effective and sustainable.

Katrin Chandra considers the experience a success, as it provided “increased confidence in presenting and working with other engineers. My teammates came from different schools and majors. So it was a great experience learning about each other's strengths and leveraging them to come up with the best solution.”

The Northwestern University participants included Mingwei Cai, Katrin Chandra, Aaron-Patrick Empedrado, Julia Kaminski, Christopher Lee, Andrew Lin, Yisen Luo, and Jacob Webb. It was facilitated by Professor Karen Chou.

SPARK is a 24-hour, think-tank style competition created to develop solutions to industry challenges in the areas of advanced manufacturing, energy, environment, and water. Hosted at select universities across the U.S., SPARK brings OBG and its clients together in partnership to provide college and university students the chance to solve real-world challenges, with real-world engineers and scientists, working alongside real-world industry representatives.

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