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Viterbi Undergraduates Win in All Four Student Competitions

March 13, 2009 —

Approximately 300 engineering students from a variety of engineering schools across the country competed in four contests during the Grand Challenges Summit: a poster contest, trivia contest, design contest and video/essay contest.  But only one school -- the Viterbi School -- won in all four competitions.  They were: 

GC Student Winners With Dean
Viterbi student winners, left to right: IIlya Golosker, Meredith Hankins, Dean Yannis C. Yortsos, Farzana Ansari and Dennis Krouse.

Farzana Ansari, biomedical engineering major
Video/essay Competition – 3rd Place
Entry: “Quenching the Thirst of Many, Community by Community,” an essay and video about supplying clean water to poor and undeveloped regions of the world.  (See Grand Challenges coverage page for complete story and video.)
Meredith Hankins, senior, chemical engineering
Poster Competition
Entry: “Experimental Investigation of Non-Wetting Phase Entrapment in Counter-Current Subsurface Flows”

Meredith Hankins’ poster of a saline aquifer to trap carbon dioxide and keep it from escaping into the atmosphere won her third place in the Great Challenges competition. For this senior majoring in chemical engineering with an emphasis in environmental engineering, the contest was a “life changing experience”.

“It was great meeting people with the same interests. As a member of Illumin (an online science magazine produced by the engineering writing program at the Viterbi School), we got to interview the speakers at the event. I was elated to discuss my research with the president of the National Academy of Engineering,” said Hankins, who won a $150 prize.

She said she felt encouraged by the response her poster drew at the contest. “People asked questions and were impressed with the amount of research I had done. It was great to have competed with PhD level students and won the prize,” she said.

First place design team holds up its four-card turbine.  (Image/Leslie Todd)

Dennis Krouse, senior, biomedical engineering
Design Competition
Entry: Miniature Wind Turbine

Dennis Krouse was part of the team that won for best design. Contestants were asked to design a miniature wind turbine using playing cards, popsicles sticks, superglue, tape and small wooden cylinders. The design that would generate the maximum electricity when stimulated by wind was to be declared the winner.

Krouse’s five-member team came up with a design that generated twice as much electricity as the other teams — all within half an hour. Krouse said he enjoyed talks by engineering experts who spoke about what was being done and what needed to be done to conquer the greatest engineering challenges of the day.

“It was great to have narrow, focused topics, but I thought we needed to reflect on the problems in a broader context. For example, we discussed solar energy, but it’s essential to discuss renewable sources of energy as a whole,” he said.

Ilya Golosker, senior, mechanical engineering
Trivia Competition

Golosker won for knowing trivia across the board, from computer science to chemistry to mechanics, engineering and “even a bit of politics.”
Building the turbine. (Image/Leslie Todd)

“Because of the variety of topics, we had to be able to shift gears very quickly,” he said.

Golosker thought the contest gave him a good opportunity to interact with other students from all over the country and from different levels of education — ranging from undergraduates to PhDs.

“The competition provided a great platform to tell students and future engineers that it’s up to them to solve these challenges in engineering and that they might actually have the ability to solve these challenges. It was an inspiring and motivating message,” said Golosker, who won a software package provided by Microsoft. 

He said he was really proud to have represented the Viterbi School at the contest and that though there were just four in the team, they were able to make prize-winning presentations.