Jasmine Leonas

Cornerstone Design asks students to solve water-related problems

Filtration system to remove microplastics from water wins Spring 2023 Cornerstone Design Final Competition
Team M.A.S.T.

Team M.A.S.T. (Microplastic Aquatic Separation Tanks), pictured here with instructor Cindy Athanasiou, won first place at the Spring 2023 Cornerstone Competition.

Water is vital to life on Earth, but it’s also tied to a number of challenges, like drought, floods, overconsumption and pollution. How can we tackle these water-related issues in creative and innovative ways?

That’s what student teams in the Spring 2023 Cornerstone Design Competition worked to answer. Teams presented their final projects at a pitch event on Thursday, May 4.

“Cornerstone Design is a signature Mines undergraduate experience that provides students with the opportunity to apply STEM tools and skills to address a real-world, open-ended problem with a novel design validated through stakeholder engagement, research, prototype building and testing and analysis,” said Yosef Allam, director of Cornerstone Design. “Students engage with real people outside the classroom to ensure that they are addressing the needs of those experiencing the problem and receiving guidance from professionals and experts. The Cornerstone Design Competition is our favorite time of the semester as we, students, faculty and staff alike, all get to experience the culmination of our students’ design and problem-solving journeys.”

The winning team – which took home a $1,000 grand prize – created a prototype filtration process that uses oil to separate tiny pieces of plastic from water, followed by an electrostatic precipitator to fully remove the microplastics – before they can enter marine systems and affect plants and animals. Members of Team M.A.S.T. (Microplastic Aquatic Separation Tanks) were William Swegles, Ashlé Jantzen, Isaac Williams, Paige Johnson and Ashley Prohs.

Water Wizards
Water Wizards, pictured here with instructor Mike Davis, took second place.

Second place and $500 went to Water Wizards, which focused on reducing domestic water use in college student housing. Their solution tracks and displays the amount of water students used while showering in campus housing, raising awareness and incentivizing students to take shorter showers to reduce water use. Team members were Nikita Hanov, Jacob Holland, Matthew Bowar, Noah Adams and Seth Livingston.

Blaster Squad
Blaster Squad, pictured here with instructor Cindy Athanasiou, took third place.

Third place and a prize of $250 went to Blaster Squad, which worked on mitigating dangerous avalanche terrain. Team members were Connor Harvey, Quin Pawiroredjo, Sam Robie, Skylor Wild and Austin Turilli.

The Subject Matters Experts Pick and $250 also went to Team M.A.S.T.

Required for all Mines undergraduates, Engineering, Design & Society’s Cornerstone Design I is a semester-long, hands-on, human-centered, open-ended design project course where student teams must investigate, define and solve their own challenge within a given topic or problem space. The final competition pits the top project idea from each of 30 class sections against each other.

Jasmine Leonas headshot

Jasmine Leonas

Public Information Specialist
About Mines
Colorado School of Mines is a public R1 research university focused on applied science and engineering, producing the talent, knowledge and innovations to serve industry and benefit society – all to create a more prosperous future.