Engineering competition marks 20th year

First-place University of Idaho winners Kevin Lyon and Laurel McGarry work on their bench-scale model for Task 4, a Green Reverse Osmosis Pretreatment for water. They competed this week in the 20th International Environmental Design Contest at the Pan American Center, with total prize money for their school’s teams totaling $7,000.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of New Mexico State University’s International Environmental Design Contest, created to bring innovative technologies to the marketplace. More than 5,000 students have participated in the engineering challenge focused on evolving proprietary technologies covering complex environmental challenges related to energy, water and overall sustainability. The Institute for Energy & the Environment produces the event each year on NMSU’s main Las Cruces campus.

The highly competitive event this year featured 24 teams from 17 universities, including teams from Canada and Mexico, all working on design tasks that focused on solar panel performance, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from mines, and water treatment. Water, one of IEE’s growing subject areas, is a defining issue as it becomes to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century: a priceless commodity. One has to consider water when examining national security and renewable energy nexus. The University of Idaho emerged as the winner of most awards, including first place for Task 4, developing alternative filters for turbid water, the Intel Innovation award, and the combined prize for Task 2/3, photovoltaic performance indicator and greenhouse gas reductions. Prize money for the team totaled $7,000. Other winners included first-place Canadian team University of Waterloo for Task 1, portable siphon unit for water, second place went to Montana Tech for the same task ($1,000), and University of California at Riverside received second place for the combined Task 2/3, taking home $1,000.

“We are training the next generation of leaders pursuing environmental solutions through research and application on many fronts,”

-Abbas Ghassemi,
IEE Director

The Outstanding Award for best oral and paper presentation of $750 went to the California Poly Tech team, while Andrew Wait, an environmental engineering major from the Colorado School of Mines, won the Terry Mc-Manus outstanding student award of $500. The final award went to first place winner for Task 4, the University of Arkansas. All the challengers in Las Cruces this week presented a poster and oral presentation, a written report and a bench-scale demonstration to a subset of about 40 judges from industry, academia and government. Teams have the chance to win cash prizes, academic and professional recognition, as well as forming lifelong bonds with other participants.

“This contest is all about human capital. Many of the competitors in the design contest are now working in public and private sectors, keenly aware of the complex issues facing us all. We are training the next generation of leaders pursuing environmental solutions through research and application on many fronts,” said Abbas Ghassemi, IEE executive director.

This year’s keynote speaker grew up in El Paso and is familiar with the Southwest. Alfredo ‘Al’ Armendariz, Ph.D., was appointed by President Obama last year as the Regional Administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 in Dallas. This jurisdiction encompasses Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and 66 tribal nations. Armendariz spoke on the EPA’s seven priorities and how the design contest tasks are aligned with those priorities, including action on climate change, improving air quality, assuring the safety of chemicals in commerce, and protecting America’s drinking water and waterways.

The Water Research Foundation consistently sponsors the annual environmental contest. This year was no exception, and sponsors included Intel Corporation, the Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research, State of New Mexico, Freeport-Mcmoran, Copper and Gold, the Pan American Center and the Food and Drug Administration. The NMSU College of Engineering integrated three Centers of Excellence to form IEE, including WERC, Southwest Technology Development Institute and the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center.

For more information about the International Environmental Design Contest visit For media and pictures of the event contact Khushroo Ghadiali at or Therese Shakra at

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Comments are closed, but you can leave a trackback: Trackback URL.