University of California, Riverside

Department of Chemical Engineering

Senior Design Project Awards

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CEE Students Win International Environmental Design Contest

April 13, 2011

WERC 2011A team of University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering students placed first last week at an international environmental design competition for a system they created to clean hard, brackish water for municipal water districts.

The team’s cumulative score was the highest in the 21-year history of the Waste-Management Education & Research Consortium contest in Las Cruces, N.M. Past participants have included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Cornell University.

“This is a historic achievement,” said Kawai Tam, the students' advisor and a lecturer at the Bourns College of Engineering.

In addition, one of the team members, James Gutierrez, received the Terry McManus Outstanding student award. Gutierrez, a graduate of Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, served in the Army Reserves for six years before enrolling at UC Riverside. The senior environmental engineering major will be pursuing his Ph.D. at Yale University starting in September.

“This award was about a commitment to sustainability,” Gutierrez said. “This has to be something that is part of your life, the way you think and a fundamental concern every day. Even so, I was very surprised and speechless during the awarding.”

The other four team members are senior chemical engineering majors:  Alfred Liu, of San Gabriel, who is looking for a post-graduation job; Cindy Brito, of Anaheim, who will be pursuing her Ph.D. at UC Santa Barbara in the fall; Andrew Mikkelson, of Hemet, who after graduating will be spending two years in school to be an officer on a Navy nuclear submarine; and Caleb Stanton, of Escondido, who will be attending Loma Linda University to seek a master’s degree in geology this fall.

Nineteen teams from 14 universities competed at the contest hosted by New Mexico State University’s Institute for Energy and the Environment. The UC Riverside team, which was sponsored by the Western Municipal Water District, took home a first place trophy and received a $2,500 prize.

The team, which called itself Waterwerx and created stickers with the team name to affix to their cell phones during the competition, was judged on its oral presentation, written paper, bench-scale prototype and poster presentation. They were told by judges that their system had the potential to be adopted by municipal water districts.

The team’s challenge was to study the efficiency and economics of magnetic treatment on brackish water in a reverse osmosis treatment plant. Cleaning brackish water is a huge industry because of the high concentration of it throughout the world and U.S., especially in the Southwest, Midwest and Southern California.

Reverse osmosis uses high pressure to drive water through a semi-permeable membrane, creating a purified stream of water and a waste stream of the concentrated brackish water.  In the last decade, reverse osmosis has become the world’s leading desalination technology. In the U.S., most reverse osmosis plants are concentrated on the coasts because they can inexpensively dispose of the waste stream in the ocean.

At inland reverse osmosis plants, waste disposal is more expensive and water supply is often limited. Consequently, inland plants need to operate at the maximum recovery rate to minimize concentrated waste. However, at high rates of recovery reverse osmosis membranes tend to break down. Membrane replacement and maintenance constitute nearly 35 percent of operating costs.

The students found that cost can be cut and water saved by using magnetic treatment in tandem with a chemical precipitation process, a method already used industrially that involves adding chemicals to cut the amount of salt collecting on the membrane. This method increases water recovery from 80 percent to 96 percent, they found.

Link to UCR News Release

Bourns Student Teams Win EPA P3 Awards

June 1, 2010

Two teams of Bourns College of Engineering students have been awarded Phase One awards in the 2010 7th annual Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3).

The two $10,000 grants will allow the teams to develop their projects and travel to Washington, D.C., next year to make presentations and compete for the $75,000 Phase 2 grant to further their designs, implement them in the field or move them to the marketplace. This is the second year in a row that both teams from UCR that submitted proposals were successful in earning the Phase One grant.

Two UCR teams that won Phase One grants in 2009 went to this year’s competition in April at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the sixth annual National Sustainable Design Expo. At the expo, the students' projects, which seek to apply technology in innovative ways to tackle global environmental challenges, were judged by a panel of experts.

EPA P3 teamOne of UCR’s teams (photo, right) was recognized with an honorable mention for their project, “Using Waste to Clean Up the Environment: Cellulosic Ethanol, the Future of Fuels.” In the photo are (left to right): Anthony Turgman, Josh Garong, Kawai Tam, Vu Nguyen, Christine Kwon, and Paul Anastas, assistant administrator for research and development at the EPA. (Photo courtesy EPA)

The first team earning this year’s Phase One award includes Chemical and Environmental Engineering (CEE) senior and sophomore students Douglas Duchon, Phillip Brendecke, Joshua Comfort, Thinh Vo, and Stephanie Stasiuk, who will work on the project, "Converting Campus Waste Streams into Locally Used Energy Products through Steam Hydrogasification and Methane Reformation."

CEE junior students Marcus Chiu, Christian Contreras, Joon-Bok Lee and Jason Skovgard make up the second team and their project is "Grid-independent Electricity Generation for Remote Areas Based on a Unitized Regenerative Hydroxide Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell System."

The students will be supervised by Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering lecturer Kawai Tam and professors Joe Norbeck and Yushan Yan, who also serves as department chair. This is the fourth time UCR teams have won the P3 award. Previous winners were in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Tam has coordinated UCR’s participation in the EPA competition at UCR since 2004.

BCOE Team Earns Second Place Award in International Environmental Design Competition

March 31, 2010

A team of students from Bourns College of Engineering earned a second place award at the WERC 20th International Environmental Design Contest hosted by New Mexico State University’s College of Engineering Institute for Energy and the Environment in Las Cruces, N.M., March 28-31.

WERC teamThe award-winning team was made up of Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering (CEE) seniors Mina Ghabbour, Bryan Goldsmith, Robert Bonderer, Kyle Pease and Dylan Switzer (pictured in photo, left to right).

A consortium for environmental education and technology development based in New Mexico, WERC holds the annual competition that attracts teams from colleges and universities from the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

This was UCR’s highest-ever finish in this competition. Their task, which was one of four given to the teams, was "Reduction of Direct Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Mine."

The students were judged by a panel of 11 expert judges on their written paper, oral presentation, bench-scale demonstration and poster presentation. The second-place award included a trophy and a cash award.

WERC team with Kawai TamThey were accompanied at the competition by faculty adviser and CEE lecturer Kawai Tam (photo, far right). “This was the first time since we began participating in 2007 that we placed in the top two, so we are ecstatic,” said Tam.

This year’s WERC competition was sponsored by the Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research Science and Technology, Intel, Food and Drug Administration, Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Water Research Foundation and New Mexico State University.

BCOE Environmental Projects Capture Two Awards

October 19

P3 WinnersTwo teams from the Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department at BCOE were awarded $10,000 each and the opportunity to compete at the highest level in the Environmental Protection Agency's P3 competition. Four California universities were chosen for the awards, but UCR was the only campus with two prize-winning teams.

"P3" stands for People, Prosperity and the Planet. Winners of Phase I receive $10,000 at the start of the academic year and use the grant to develop their design projects. In April, all teams must submit their final reports from Phase I as well as their proposals for Phase II. All P3 grant recipients attend the National Sustainable Design Expo featuring the highest level P3 competition, held in Washington, D.C. Up to $75,000 is given to the best student designs, providing an opportunity to further these designs, implement them in the field, and move them to the marketplace.

One of the BCOE teams developed a solar concentration concept where the sun's rays are focused through a Fresnel lens (originally developed for lighthouses), with the resulting heat used to distill clean water out of dirty water. The team, pictured above with a mock-up of their device, is (l. to r.) Professor Mark Matsumoto (Principal Investigator), John Johnson, Chris Salinas, Parham Javadinajjar, Wesley Chen, Alex Chen, Luke Chen and Professor Kawai Tam (advisor). Wesley, Alex and Luke are recent additions to the team as a former member, Elizha West, graduated and is working on a remediation project for URS Corporation's Washington Division in Washington State. Elizha will rejoin the team in Washington, D.C. for the next level of the competition.

The other award-winning group is working with cellulosic ethanol made from waste wood, an effort that helps clean up the environment at the same time it is creating fuel. They are (pictured below from l. to r.) Anthony Turgman, Vu Nguyen, Jian Shi (post-doctoral student), Ramon Josh Garong and Christine Kwon in front of Ramon. The Principal Investigator for this project is Charles Wyman (not pictured).P3 Ethanol Team

This isn't the first time BCOE teams have captured the P3 award; they also won the first phase in 2005 and in 2007. Professor Tam has coordinated the teams since 2004, the year after the EPA and its partners began the award program to promote innovative thinking for moving the world toward sustainability. The competition is designed to help college students gain new skills as they research, design, develop and implement scientific solutions to environmental challenges.

Link to UCR News Release

Team Member Named Top Student at WERC Competition

WERC CompetitionBreanne Bornemann won the Terry McManus Memorial Award for Most Outstanding Student at the WERC Consortium competition in New Mexico on April 8, 2009. This award honors a student that goes above and beyond the academic curriculum and includes a plaque and a $1,000 cash prize. Bornemann was nominated for her work and passion in starting the UCR student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), and her ongoing efforts in helping the adopted village of Pastores Sacatequez, Guatemala to improve water and sanitation safety.

Bornemann is one of four BCOE team members, all Environmental Engineering seniors, who participated in Task 3, a design process for pretreatment of brackish water. They were sponsored by Western Municipal Water District, a member agency of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The team created a prototype for cascade aeration and modified activated carbon to treat key contaminants of iron, manganese, and aluminum which foul reverse osmosis and electrodialysis reversal water treatment processes. A highlight was that they incorporated sustainable energy in their process by designing a solar pond that would power all the pumps in their pretreatment process.

By being involved in the competition the team was able to benefit from the judges' expertise in the field, and gain new knowledge and perspectives. It was also an opportunity for them to network. A couple of the judges requested that the students contact them after the competition to discuss their project further. In the photo (l. to r.) Dr. Kawai Tam (supervisor), Tyler Colyer, Breanne Bornemann, Mihir Desai and Troy Ezeh.

WERC is a consortium for environmental education and technology development that has come to be widely recognized for its commitment to the nation's environment and natural resources. The organization's threefold program aims to achieve environmental excellence through education, public outreach, and technology development and deployment.

P3: People, Prosperity, and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability

P3 StudentsUndergraduate students from the Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering have won a federal grant of $10,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their project on rainwater harvesting to supplement local water supplies. The team consists of Andrew Chin, Roland Cusick, Steven Gebelin, Greg Guillen and Temi Ogunyoku. Their advisors are Lecturer Kawai Tam and Professor Mark Matsumoto. The EPA made awards to 41 student teams in the national People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) competition; other California winning teams were from Stanford and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. This is the second year of the competition, designed to support student design projects that maintain economic growth while preserving natural resources. Several designs from the first year of competition have been successfully implemented into business practices. Students traveled to Washington D.C. in April 2006 to present their findings.

P3: People, Prosperity, and the Planet Student Design Competition for Sustainability

P3 Award 2An undergraduate team from the Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering at UCR have won $10,000 from the EPA on their project of "Zero Waste Biodiesel: Using Glycerin and Biomass to Create Renewable Energy". The team consists of Sean Brady, Gregory Leung and Christopher Salam. Their advisors are Lecturer Kawai Tam and Professor Joe Norbeck. The students traveled to Washington, D.C. to present their findings at the National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall on April 20-22, 2008.


Southern California World Wide Water Forum






UCR undergraduate students from the department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering win a $10,000 award for investigation of their rooftop rainwater harvesting project at the World Water Forum hosted by a consortium of organizations including the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Southern California Metropolitan Water District (MWD), the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, Friends of the United Nations, Water for People, Assocation of Civil Engineers, and the Family of Southern California Water Agencies. The team consists of Andrew Chin, Roland Cusick, Steven Gebelin, Greg Guillen and Temi Ogunyoku.

A check was presented at the award ceremonies held at the MWD headquarters in Los Angeles on June, 18, 2005.

Southern California World Wide Water Forum






A team of Chemical and Environmental Engineering students has won the Southern California World Water Forum College award that includes a grant of $10,000 to implement their design. The check was presented at an awards reception held on May 30, 2008 at the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) headquarters at the Union Station in Los Angeles.

Team members are Tongzhou Wang, Brian Hawkinson and Dewi Nilasari.Their project is titled "Silica Removal from Inland Brackish Water" and concerns the limited availability of fresh water in the Southern California region.

Population and industrial growth have depleted fresh water supplies. One potential source is the large supply of brackish water which can be found at San Joaquin and Imperial Valley in California. This water has more salinity than fresh water (although not as much as sea water) resulting from minerals leached from soil and evaporation that leaves salts behind. Reverse osmosis technology that uses pressure to force water through a membrane that retains the salt on one side is one of the most effective technologies used today, but one of its major challenges is the presence of silica. When silica becomes concentrated, it fouls the membranes, which must be frequently replaced.

The team proposes an innovative system for silica removal from brackish water prior to desalinization as part of the pre-treatment process. By implementing their removal system before reverse osmosis, they estimate that the silica content of brackish water can be reduced up to 90 percent, significantly improving the life span of the membrane and greatly increasing the water recovery. CEE lecturer Kawai Tam and Associate Dean Mark Matsumoto are supervisor and advisor to the team.

Waste Management, Education, and Research Consortium

WERC 1UCR undergraduate Engineering students brought home two awards from the WERC (Waste Management, Education and Research Consortium) Environmental Design Contest at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico, which took place April 1-4, 2007. Sean Brady, Gregory Leung and Christopher Salam won the teamwork award for innovation with their project "Zero Waste Biodiesel." Gregory Leung won the biggest single award of the evening, Intel's Terry McManus Memorial award, for $1,500. Their advisors are CEE Lecturer Kawai Tam and Professor Joe Norbeck.


Air and Waste Management Association

AWMA 1Second year Ph.D. student Sudeep Popat and recent graduates Lindsay Yee, Christina Zapata, Quoc-Hung Phan and Nichola Kinsinger grabbed three top prizes at the Student Poster/Paper competition at the annual Air & Waste Management Association's Annual Conference & Exhibition in Portland, Oregon, on June 24, 2008. AWMA is a century-old professional association of environmental engineers and focuses on air pollution and waste-related issues.

Sudeep, a graduate student in the Chemical & Environmental Engineering working with Professor Marc Deshusses, won the first prize award in the Ph.D. students' category and the second prize award in the Sustainability category for his poster titled "Green Technology for Removal of Siloxanes from Biogas." Lindsay, Christina, Quoc-Hung and Nichola won the first prize in the undergraduate students' category for their poster titled "Power Plant NOx Treatment Using Bacterial Denitrification", which was based on their senior design project, also carried out in Dr. Deshusses's lab. They were required to submit an abstract and a paper in advance and then present a poster at the national convention. The posters were judged by leading experts in air pollution and waste issues, and senior members of the AWMA. The awards were also accompanied by monetary prizes: Sudeep won a total of $2,700 ($1,800 for the Ph.D. award, and $900 from the Sustainability category), while Lindsay, Christina, Quoc-Hung and Nichola won $800 for their poster.

Intelligen International Process Design Contest

IntelligenUCR Engineering undergraduate students, won first prize in Intelligen's International Process Design Contest for 2007. The students received a cash prize ($1,000), and their department got the latest simulation modeling software SuperPro Designer. They were honored for a very complex process, the commercial production of the anti-cancer agent Paclitaxel using the software. Shaena now works for the Southern California Gas Company. Nirav is currently working, but is applying for grad studies and medical school.

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University of California, Riverside
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Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

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Bourns College of Engineering
446 Winston Chung Hall

Tel: (951) 827-5190
Fax: (951) 827-3188