Six Mines graduate students are competing in The Economist's Which MBA case competition, sponsored by NRG Energy, the leading integrated power company in the United States. NRG invited teams from universities across the world to submit a proposal to solve an energy issue, challenging them to create a financial model that enables the development of an energy system.
Team GreatMines is comprised of Micah Gowen, Sadie Fulton and Liam O'Callaghan; Team Westpaw is comprised of Walter Meeker, Phillip Ruban and August Steinbeck, all of whom study Mineral and Energy Economics in the Division of Economics and Business at Colorado School of Mines.
Entries were submitted online via video presentation and a written proposal. NRG will select the best three proposals—first place receives $10,000, second place $5,000, and third place $3,000. In addition, there is a People's Choice Award which is open to the public for voting. The team with the most votes will receive $3,000. You can vote for both Mines teams by visiting economist.com/cleanenergy and selecting Mines under “Participants.”
About Mineral and Energy Economics at Mines
Founded in 1969, this world-renowned program in the Division of Economics Business leads to MS and PhD degrees in Mineral and Energy Economics. This program attracts students from all over the world, and Mines MEE alumni are known globally for their career achievements and qualifications. Students gain the skills necessary for understanding the complex interactions of markets and policy that influence the energy, mineral and environmental industries. The program focuses on applied quantitative tools and models that form a foundation for sound business and public policy. Learn more about Mines’ Mineral and Energy Economics program.
PHOTO: Mineral and Energy Economics students Sadie Fulton, Liam O'Callaghan and Micah Gowen (Team GreatMines) are competing in The Economist Which MBA energy case competition. Not pictured: Walter Meeker, Phillip Ruban and August Steinbeck (Team Westpaw).
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Colorado School of Mines students demonstrated both their materials expertise and practical skills at TMS 2017, taking second place in the Materials Bowl and finishing third in the Bladesmithing Competition during the annual meeting of The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, held February 26 to March 2, 2017, in San Diego, California.
Undergraduate students Jordan Carson and Rachel English and PhD candidates Andrea Bollinger and Brian Kagay competed in the Materials Bowl, a materials-themed knowledge and trivia competition. Mines won the contest in 2015, and also took first place in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
For the Bladesmithing Competition, a group of undergraduate and graduate students forged and crafted a straight razor with a Damascus pattern, with some material coming from Clear Creek in Golden.
“The rubric stated that the blade should be of historical significance,” said undergraduate student Stuart Shirley, himself a blacksmith and one of the team leaders. “Our team decided to make a straight razor—this is a knife blade that has played an essential role in daily life,” he explained. While not a weapon, soldiers and officers often carried it into the battlefield to bring a sense of normalcy, he said. The straight razor also transcended economic status, and is now making a comeback for those looking for the best shave.
Shirley and fellow undergraduate student Michelle Hoffman learned techniques from Denver knife maker Owen Wood and put them to use in blacksmith Dan McNeil’s Golden shop. They also conducted several thermite burns to create hunks of iron, with the original ore coming from the iron-rich sand in Clear Creek. “A piece of the smelted iron was used as the handle spacer, a critical component that allows the blade to open and close properly,” Shirley said.
Also helping to forge the blade and make the steel were undergraduates Marshall Boyton, John Copley and Chanise Hoffman and graduate students Alexandra Anderson, Tom Boundy, Brett Carlson and Hunter Sceats.
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At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be anything particularly unique about the 16-foot-long canoe christened “Let It Row” docked in the basement of Brown Hall. It’s only upon a closer inspection that it’s clear this vessel weighs roughly 200 pounds more than even the heaviest aluminum canoe. Why? The canoe is made out of concrete.
“Yes, we do put our concrete canoe in the water,” said Peyton Gibson, the project manager of the 2016-17 Mines concrete canoe competition senior design team. “Hopefully it will float this year.”
The American Society of Civil Engineers hosts a competition every year, challenging student engineers to design and build a workable canoe made of concrete. The goal of the competition is to provide students with hands-on engineering experience and build awareness of new concrete technologies and applications. The Mines design team has had all hands on deck designing a (relatively) light-weight yet sturdy canoe using unique add mixtures to the concrete.
“The things that you learn from this project—mixing concrete, the types of reinforcement that you need—can be easily applied to real-life situations,” said Maito Okamoto, the technical lead for the Mines senior design team.
Gibson added, “This project has taught us all how to work on a team. [We’ve been] learning project management skills, how to stick to a schedule and how to work together.”
At competition, teams are rated on four criteria, each worth 25 percent of their final score: a design paper, an oral presentation, the final canoe and five canoe races.
The 11 seniors on the Mines team have spent more than 1,700 hours designing the canoe, creating a mold, mixing and casting the concrete, sanding the canoe and working on the accompanying design paper and oral presentation.
“We had a few bumps along the way, so it took a lot of man hours to get where we want to be,” said Jon Chestnut, the design team’s administration manager. “We’ve developed a really good communication plan this semester with weekly updates and project work plans.”
“We are on schedule and on track,” said Gibson. “Getting everyone on the same page and moving at the same pace has been incredibly difficult but incredibly rewarding.”
The senior design team will take their canoe to the University of Utah to compete at the conference competition on April 6-8 with the hope of qualifying for the National Concrete Canoe Competition, which Mines is hosting at Evergreen Lake just outside of Golden, Colo., June 17-19.
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A team of Colorado School of Mines students is one of just eight finalists in a NASA competition to design and build a system to extract water from the subsurface of Mars, and their ideas have a chance of someday making it into space.
The Mars Ice Challenge is a special edition of NASA’s Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) brand of competitions. Student concepts are normally confined to papers and presentations, but to celebrate the 100th anniversary of NASA Langley Research Center this year, the eight chosen teams are being awarded $10,000 each to construct ice extraction prototypes and bring them to Virginia to demonstrate their effectiveness.
The Mines team named the project Hidden Ground-Water Extraction Low Load System, or H.G. Wells—a reference to the author’s novel “War of the Worlds,” which tells the story of Martians invading Earth for its water.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, petroleum engineering majors Steve Benfield and Justin Kilb are in charge of the drilling subsystem. “I’m very interested in drilling engineering,” said Benfield, who’s had summer internships at oil rigs.
However, their prototype actually uses an auger, a drill that includes a blade to bring material up, unlike the systems used in oil drilling today. “There’s very little similarity,” Kilb said. “In the industry, we use fluid and compressed gas to remove cuttings. But water doesn’t typically exist as a liquid on Mars, and there’s no compressed gas either.”
Still, some of the same factors have to be taken into consideration, Kilb said. There’s the weight being put on the bit, the rate of penetration and the strength of the equipment needed for successful extraction. Mines Petroleum Engineering Associate Professor Bill Eustes, an expert on terrestrial drilling, has proven to be a valuable resource.
“As a Canadian, we don’t have as many opportunities to work in space,” said Kilb, a transfer student. “To possibly contribute to something that could land on Mars is pretty cool. To have even gone through the same process that NASA engineers go through is cool.”
Mechanical engineering major Michael Szostak was on last year’s RASC-AL team, which made it to the finals. He enjoyed the experience so much that he wanted to do it every year, so he used his position as events coordinator for the Mines chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics to recruit team members. “I’m very much psyched to be in the competition again,” he said.
Szostak, geophysical engineering student Kenneth Li and freshman Giorgio Cassata are tasked with designing and building the icebox, which will collect the cuttings, melt the ice and filter out the dirt, all while the drill operates. “Seventy percent of the competition is how much water you deliver,” Szostak said. “We’ll also be penalized if any large particulates end up in the water.”
Space is a passion for Szostak, who’s pursuing an area of special interest, akin to a minor, in space and planetary science and engineering. “I would like to work for NASA or a space resource company,” he said. “Asteroid, Mars, moon, you name it—I think energy can be cleanly obtained from outer space.”
While Li is part of the icebox team, his main task has been keeping track of expenses and the parts that remain to be ordered. Making sure they’re not taxed on orders has proven to be a big process, Li said. He’s only had to say no to one purchase: an $800 box used for packing fish.
“Mainly we’ve been under budget,” Li said. “Local companies have donated parts and have been extremely helpful with their time, and we’ve also been able to use components from old Mines projects.”
“It’s been amazing how generous industry has been,” added Kilb. “There are a lot of technical problems we haven’t been able to answer using Google, so I’ve just been cold-calling 20 to 30 engineers, who have been so helpful.”
Cassata notes that the icebox has changed quite a bit since the team first started meeting last semester—both its shape and how it’s mounted. “It’s really hard to figure out what the problems are going to be,” he said. “You figure out the best way to do each part and don’t realize how it’s going to affect other parts.”
Cassata plans on majoring in mechanical engineering, perhaps with an emphasis on biomechanics. “I love space in general and it’d be great to apply that somehow to space,” said Cassata, who volunteered at a small space museum near his hometown. “It was really good for feeding my interest.”
Caroline Ellis, a student in engineering physics, leads the electronics and programming subsystem team, which includes mechanical engineering students Tatjana Tschirpke and Taewoo Kim.
“We are on a huge learning curve right now, just trying to absorb as much information as we can online and from various people,” said Ellis. The team had originally planned on using a Raspberry Pi minicomputer to control the system, but after consulting with various experts, recently made the switch to a different device and programming language.
“It’s been great in terms of learning about circuits and how to design circuitry,” said Ellis, who has been taking a class on circuit theory as well as Python programming. “The knowledge has flowed both ways.”
The steep learning curve has made it interesting, said Tschirpke, who hopes to work in the aerospace industry after graduation. “There’s very little of this that we’ve done in class, so everything is new,” she said. “I’m really excited to see how we do against the other schools this summer.”
Kim said mechanical engineering students like him and Tschirpke typically haven’t had much exposure to the electronic and electrical side of engineering. “It’s been great to see electromechanical systems come together.”
Kim said working as part of a small team reinforces his desire to work in start-ups instead of large companies. “We’re very connected, the 10 of us—when one of us does something, we can quickly inform the others,” he said. “I’ve been on other teams with up to a hundred members, and it gets bureaucratic.”
Mechanical engineering students Tyler Perko and James Wood have been translating theory they’ve learned in the classroom directly to the project as the mechanical subsystem team. “I’ve been taking machine design and advanced mechanics and materials, and we’ve been talking about the same things that we’re working on,” Perko said, and the project has revealed that learning about something and doing it isn’t always an easy transition.
“Welding is a lot harder than you would think,” Perko said. “We probably practiced welding aluminum for a month before we started trying to weld the chassis together.”
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the machine shop, and I’ve enjoyed doing all the soldering,” Wood said. “I feel like I learn more going through a messing up and having to do it again. You don’t know how stuff is going to go wrong until it actually goes wrong.”
The team has been very careful to design around weight constraints, but they’re still working with a few unknowns. “The whole skeleton weighs almost nothing, and it meets the five factors of safety, so it should hold,” Wood said.
Advising the group is Angel Abbud-Madrid, a research associate professor in mechanical engineering and director of the Center for Space Resources at Mines.
“The whole point of this competition is for students to suggest ideas that NASA might actually pursue and get to use,” Abbud-Madrid said. The emphasis is on obtaining resources for astronauts who may travel to Mars in 2030 and beyond. “We cannot bring water from Earth—it’s too expensive, too heavy—but they will need it for drinking, for plants, split it into hydrogen and oxygen for breathing and propellant,” he explained.
As advisor, Abbud-Madrid provides a place to meet and work, channels the funding through the center, helps purchase materials and guides them through the process. Otherwise, “they do everything,” he said.
The team presents its midpoint progress report April 2, 2017, when they will be expected to prove they have a viable prototype. Once they pass that test, they’ll receive the second half of their funding of $5,000. The final competition takes place June 13 to 15, 2017, at NASA Langley.
|Prospective students pose for a photo with Mines faculty and staff.|
|The 2017 Colorado School of Mines IBA team. Left to right: Lauren Bane, Brittany Abbuhl, Sebastian Cardona, Jacquelyn Daves, Matthew Huels.|
More than 250 teams from over 50 countries around the world participate in the competition each year, organized by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, with one winner from each of the 12 AAPG sections being chosen. After their victory on March 4, 2017, the Mines team will travel to the AAPG’s Annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston, Texas, for the international contest on April 1.
Hannah Grover defends a case on behalf of the Mines team.
Photo courtesy of Parker Bolstad.
“Having the opportunity to be a part of the Ethics Bowl team for two years in a row has been an incredibly positive experience for me,” said engineering physics senior Hannah Grover, who was interviewed by Colorado Public Radio prior to the competition. “The group of people that I got to work and explore difficult ideas with are incredible, and challenge me to think more deeply and critically about my own beliefs.”
The Mines Team gets ready to enter the Edgar Experimental Mine for the field competition. From left to right: Noah Johnson, Marie Hetherington, Stephen Simmons, Quan Nguyen, Jared Mullins, Alejandro Martinez.
Photo Credit: Colorado School of Mines Mine Rescue Team
A team looks at a map to find and rescue a victim during the field competition at the Edgar Mine.
Photo Credit: Jürgen Weyer, University of Freiburg
Simmons said the challenges the team faced during the competition have given them knowledge and experience that will benefit them greatly in later contests. “Our aim in the competition is to excel in all areas of competition and to learn valuable lessons that will not only benefit us in Mine Rescue, but in all aspects of our lives,” he said.
Colorado School of Mines students have organized a campus version of the popular TED Talks, with the aim of bringing new ideas to this community of aspiring scientists and engineers.
TEDxCSM, with the theme of “Pathways to Tomorrow” and taking place from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 4, has already sold out. Unsurprisingly, education is well represented in the four scheduled talks.
Gus Greivel, teaching professor of Applied Mathematics and Statistics at Mines, will present “Failing Successfully in Education,” discussing how encouraging intellectual risks and failure and modeling this behavior in faculty can help students.
“I plan to explore some recent changes we have made in the Honors Calculus II course at Mines that reflect risk-taking on the part of the faculty and a change in emphasis on how and what we assess with this high-performing group of students,” said Greivel, who received his BS and MS degrees from Mines and has taught at the university since 1996.
Jahi Simbai, assistant dean of graduate studies at Mines, hopes to both educate and entertain with his talk, titled “The Power of &.” The presentation is inspired by hip-hop and the teachings of Jim Collins, a Colorado native who taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and now runs a management laboratory in Boulder.
“I’m going to perform some live music, show some slides and talk about how the students can become great engineers and something else,” Simbai said. “As an engineering, an entertainer, an administrator and a lifelong learner I—enjoyably—wear many hats,” he added. “I will discuss with the community how they, if they wish, can do the same by embracing the power of ‘and’.”
Jessica Ellis, assistant professor of mathematics at Colorado State University, drawing from her own experiences as a student and educator, will present “The Breakdown of Women in STEM.” As a member of a larger research project, Ellis helped determine that women are 50 percent more likely to switch out of STEM majors after taking Calculus I in college, compared to men with the same abilities.
“We found that students’ confidence in their math abilities was a major factor,” Ellis said. While not a groundbreaking discovery, “by documenting and publishing these findings, I put words to many women’s experiences in introductory college math.”
Longtime marketing executive Justine Metz will discuss ethics and engineering.
Mines sophomore Daniel Dickason and senior Jessie Burckel, both mechanical engineering majors, are the co-organizers of the TEDx event. The rest of the team is made up of Grayland Balmer, chemical and biological engineering; Sean Smith, mechanical engineering; Trevor Clevenger, engineering physics; Becca May, computer science; and Tara Maestas, biochemical engineering.
Bringing TEDx to Golden has actually been a couple of years in the making. Arjumand Alvi, who graduated from Mines last May and now works as a systems engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, had been the primary point of contact in trying to obtain the one-year TEDx license.
“When I was in school, I had a professor who really opened my eyes to TED Talks,” Alvi said. “I was also an RA, where there was a lot of interest in using technology to educate our residents.” The committee had to reapply for the license, as their original proposal was deemed too narrowly focused on engineering. “Now we have a multidisciplinary event that tackles different things that influence engineers but is not restricted to engineering.”
Organizers plan to post videos of the talks after the event.