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Published May 11, 2022
Two teams of University of Wyoming students received awards recently through the 9H Research Foundation’s $5k Senior Design Challenge in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.
In addition to announcing the winners of the design competition, the 9H event served as a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the foundation’s $1 million, 500-kilowatt solar research facility; recognized four student interns working on the SmartRanch Drone Agricultural Project involving 9H, the college and UW’s Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center (WyGISC); and announced the winners of the foundation’s energy competition.
The 9H Research Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization focused on being a hub for innovation; engaging students with practical research and applied projects; elevating UW; stimulating the local Wyoming economy; and supporting students through awards, internships, competitions, projects and scholarships. Gene Humphrey, a UW College of Engineering and Applied Science alumnus, funds the foundation.
The second annual $5k Senior Design Challenge had two project areas -- design a solar ranch or a battery recycling facility.
UW engineering students were challenged to design an affordable, easy-to-install solar module for net-metering to reduce a rancher’s electric bill. The best solar module design was funded for $2,500, and students installed their prototype on a working Wyoming ranch.
The winners were the mechanical engineering “Team B” students Jay Matter, from Cheyenne; Cedric Bond, of Monument, Colo.; Jayden Riley, from Green River; Mason Tomac, of Laramie; and Zachary Woith, from Carlsbad, Calif. The team shared a $2,500 prize.
The second topic tasked students with a feasibility study on the viability of building an industrial-scale battery recycling plant in Wyoming and the economic impact it would have on the state.
The winner was the chemical engineering team of Chris Consoliver, Aaron Emmert and Lucas Mead, all from Laramie; and Joe Reinicke, of Arvada, Colo. The students shared a $2,500 prize.
“I would like to express our sincere thanks for Gene Humphrey’s continued support of the College of Engineering and Applied Science with the annual 9H Research Foundation $5k Senior Design Challenge,” Dean Cameron Wright says. “This generosity creates positive impact in the lives of our students by inspiring creative, hands-on learning experience opportunities.”
The $16,000 9H SmartRanch Drone Agricultural Project was co-founded by the College of Engineering and Applied Science and WyGISC, and the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services Workforce Development Training Fund provided an internship grant for students. The teams used drone technology to identify and eradicate noxious weeds and mosquitos, two important ranching issues.
The four interns recognized for their efforts on the project were Ezekiel Bolze, of Landisburg, Pa.; Trevor Johnson, from Casper; Emma Jones, of Papillion, Neb.; and Chloe Mattilio, of Willow Street, Pa.
The students have diverse interdisciplinary backgrounds and areas of expertise: Bolze is a computer engineering student and an Air Force ROTC cadet; Johnson is a joint MBA and mechanical engineering master’s degree student; Jones is working toward dual bachelor’s degrees in environment and natural resources and political science; and Mattilio is pursuing a Ph.D. in plant science and ecology.
“The 9H Research Foundation gives students the opportunity to work on real-world applied projects, all while rewarding their efforts with prize money,” says Paul Bonifas, director of operations for 9H. “The challenges we offer to students are built to simulate industry working environments, giving them a leg up on the competition when starting their careers. By building a 1,200-panel PV solar facility, we are showing the energy industry that Wyoming is open for all types of business and that the university and local government will work with entrepreneurs to attract jobs to the state.”
The 500kW solar facility, located west of Laramie, was built using donated Series 6 solar panels from U.S.-based First Solar. The electricity will be sold to Carbon Power and Light, providing income to 9H Research Foundation over the next 25-30 years. The foundation will fund future projects, internships and scholarships for UW students.