Cal Poly students’ bicycle-powered maize mill won the 2016 Premier Project Award from Engineers Without Borders USA. Cal Poly was one of three student chapters out of more than 200 nationwide to receive the award.
The Engineers Without Borders-Cal Poly (EWB) Malawi team designed the mill for residents of Kumponda, Malawi, who face a limited growing season and other food-production challenges. In order to ground maize into flour to make nsima, a food staple of the region, villagers must travel hours by foot twice a month to access a costly electric maize mill that is also unreliable due to power outages.
The student-designed bicycle-powered mill makes maize production more economical and reliable. The EWB Malawi team, made up of some 20 students, designed and developed prototypes on campus with help from mentors in industry. “Throughout the year, we continually communicate our progress and incorporate suggestions from Kumponda via our NGO partner, Action for Environmental Sustainability,” explained team member Chris Apple.
Last December, four team members traveled to Kumponda in southwestern Africa to present the prototype and provide instruction on how to build mills using locally available, low-cost parts. The visiting EWB students included team leaders Jennifer Tuttle and Spencer Jemes, both civil engineering majors; and environmental engineering majors Apple and Cate Kraska.
“The community members have shown unbelievable commitment and enthusiasm toward the project,” Jemes said. “They impressed us every single day with their ideas for the mill, while keeping an open mind for collaboration.”
Noted Kraska, “When our implementation visit was over, everyone was excited about the progress we and the Kumponda community made towards implementing a sustainable solution to hunger.”
Engineers Without Borders – USA is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that partners with developing communities across the globe to improve their quality of life. The partnership implementing sustainable engineering projects, while involving and training internationally responsible engineers and engineering students.
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Photo: Spencer Jemes and villagers inspect the mill prototype.
Cal Poly students swept the Residential Energy Modeling Competition sponsored by the California Association of Building Energy Consultants (CABEC).
General engineering senior Mia Sheperd placed first; Aaron Feinstein, a mechanical engineering junior, placed second; and civil engineering senior Chase Hemming placed third.
The contest required students to create an energy model for a single-family residential project using the California Energy Commission-approved compliance software tools.
“While California requires an energy budget filed for every new or altered building, there are currently fewer than 200 people statewide registered as certified energy consultants,” noted Melinda Keller, an instructor in Cal Poly’s Mechanical Engineering Department. “With this energy modeling competition, CABEC is striving to encourage new people to learn the trade.”
First place winner Sheperd is president of the Cal Poly Zero Waste Club. “I have wanted to get into energy modeling since I first heard about it,” she said. “My goal is to become a certified energy engineer. Thanks to my major, general engineering, I’ve had the chance to get my hands on more energy-related projects.”
Feinstein entered the contest to learn EnergyPro, energy compliance software approved by the California Energy Commission. “It was interesting to see how the energy consumption of a building could change based on factors we were altering in the program,” he said. “Cal Poly has contributed to my success because professors like Melinda Keller take the time to coach and help students learn, even outside of the classroom.”
“As a civil engineering major,” said Hemming “it was useful to get practice reading plan and elevation drawings and then inputing that information into the energy modeling program. In the future, I’m interested in designing sustainable infrastructure. This competition helped introduce me to the energy side of that field.”
The students won free trips to Lake Tahoe in April to participate in the CABEC conference, where they will be presented with the awards and monetary prizes.
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Photo (left to right): Melinda Keller, Chase Hemming, Mia Sheperd and Aaron Feinstein.
Cal Poly students received five of 11 scholarships awarded by the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) California. The group’s foundation awards scholarships annually to graduate or undergraduate college students working toward a degree in engineering or land surveying.
The Cal Poly recipients include Audrey Fremier, environmental engineering junior; Youlen Ghazalian, industrial engineering senior; Chase Hemming, civil engineering senior; Jennifer Laybourn, civil engineering senior; and Amy Poehlitz, architectural engineering senior. The Cal Poly students won a total of $8,000 in scholarship funds.
"These accomplished students represent California's bright future, and I'm proud ACEC California can play a role helping them achieve their full potential," said Brad Diede, executive director at ACEC California. "The engineering and land surveying industries play an important role in California's economic strength, and it is critical to support students who are working hard toward entering these professions."
In addition to Cal Poly, the scholarship recipients represented CSU Chico, Santa Clara University, Stanford, and Cal Poly Ponoma.
ACEC California is a statewide association representing more than 950 private consulting engineering and land-surveying firms. ACEC California is dedicated to enhancing the consulting engineering and land surveying professions, protecting the general public and promoting the use of the private sector in the growth and development of the state.
Photo left to right: Audrey Fremier, Amy Poehlitz, Youlen Ghazalian, and Jennifer Laybourn. Not pictured: Chase Hemming.