Three‑peat for Dal AC students at national engineering competition

- March 22, 2019

Canadian Engineering Competition winners. (Provided photo)
Canadian Engineering Competition winners. (Provided photo)

For the third year in a row, a team of four engineering students from Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture claimed the top spot at the annual Canadian Engineering Competition (CEC).

Jack Lynds (North River), Sarah van den Heuvel (Antigonish), Connor Mullins (Elmsdale), and Cody Smith (Valley) competed in the CEC at the University of Waterloo in Ontario from March 1-4. The team competed against seven other teams from across Canada in the Junior Team Design category.

“It felt amazing to win the competition for our campus for the third year in a row,” says team member Jack Lynds.

“I remember being in grade 12 and hearing of their first national win. Last year, we were all thrilled for our team who brought home the second straight national title. We certainly felt the pressure of upholding the expectations from the previous two teams from Dal AC, but we were up for the challenge.”

A national showdown

Each year, the CEC brings together 150 of the most innovative and creative engineering undergraduate students from across the nation to compete against each other in design, consulting, presentation and debate. Each competition category at CEC challenges its participants to identify solutions to problems experienced throughout the profession.

“We are thrilled for Sarah, Jack, Cody and Connor,” says Peter Havard, department chair. “Their win at the CEC demonstrates a tradition of excellence in our students and we could not be prouder. We are happy our students are continuing to participate in the competition, for their practical experience as well as the valuable opportunity to network with their peers nationally in their chosen profession.”

This year, the eight teams were tasked with moving contaminated water from a low basin to a higher elevation collection tank. They then had to filter the contaminated water to remove unwanted particles and bio-oil. Students were given eight hours to design and build their prototype. Once built, they had to present their solution and demonstrate their prototype to a panel of judges.

Bringing their A-game

The Dal AC team created a reciprocating pump using PVC piping, a 90 degree PVC elbow, a tee connector, and two check valves. A plunger tube was used to force water from the lower basin to the upper basin while the check valves prevented the water from flowing back into the lower basin. A filter made from multiple layers of coffee filters, cheese cloths, wood chips, sand and pebbles filter the bio-oil and stopped the ash particles from ending up in the final filtered water that was to be tested.  

“When the plunger was drawn back, the tight seal created a region of low pressure which drew the water up into the middle section of the piping,” Jack explains.

“When the plunger was pushed back in, it forced the water out of the plunger tube. The check valve below to tee connector then closed, preventing water to return to the lower basin while the upper check valve was forced open to allow the water to continue moving upward. The elbow was used to direct the water into the collection tank. The plunger was repeatedly drawn back and pushed in to create the pressure difference and maintain water flow.”

Making the grade

To compete at CEC, teams had to first qualify by placing first or second at the Atlantic Engineering Competition (AEC). The opportunity to compete at the AEC was presented to all engineering students at the Faculty of Agriculture.

Two teams from Dal AC competed at this year’s AEC’s Junior Design at Dalhousie University’s Sexton Campus in Halifax. A team of first year engineering students consisting of Danielle Crowe, Colton Graham, Tim Thiessen and Hayden Yorke also competed in January’s AEC. Jack, Connor, Cody and Sarah finished second, securing them a spot at the national competition.

“We were very excited when we qualified for the CEC at Waterloo and even more excited when we came first place at the competition to defend the national title for the third year in a row for Dal AC!” Sarah van den Heuvel says. “It was such an amazing experience and I am so proud of my teammates.”

At the CEC, the team was awarded with a cash prize, trophy for the school, and medals for each team member. Along with their prize, the students met fellow engineering students from across Canada, took home new knowledge of engineering and design, and secured valuable hands-on design experience. The team received financial support from Dal AC’s Engineering Department, Dal AC Dean's Office, Farm Credit Canada student activity grants, and CIBC Truro Branch which allowed them to travel to Waterloo at minimal cost.

“CEC was an incredible opportunity for us to develop our design and pitch skills which will be very valuable in our careers down the road,” says Jack. “We got to network with and compete among some of the best engineering students in the country. This amazing experience wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of our sponsors- we greatly appreciate their support.”


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