Western Students go Toe-to-Toe at 11th Capstone Battle

Western Students go Toe-to-Toe at 11th Capstone Battle

Sarnia Observer (March 25, 2016) -- Clifford Palmer and his teammates will graduate as winners.

The fourth year students in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at London's Western University were part of the Capstone Design Project competition Thursday at the Research Park in Sarnia, and came away with the top prize in the renewable fuels and energy category.

Their project, Butanol Production from Sugar Beet Pulp, was selected by a panel of judges from industry, following a day of presentations at the Research Park.

“This was our one major goal for the whole year,” Palmer said.

He was part of a team that included Mark Pipher, Erica Glatt and Robert Stevens.

“It feels really good to finally have everything over with, done and successfully accomplished,” Palmer said.

Katherine Albion, Director of the Bowman Centre located at the Research Park, said sponsors provided a total of $11,500 for the prize pool split between first and second place winning teams in three categories.

As a final year project, the students work in teams to design a plant or process using knowledge they've gain over their time at university, Albion said.

“And then, they come and present their designs to community judges,” she said.

Those presentations were made through the day Thursday, with the winners named in the early afternoon.

This is the 11th year for the competition at the Research Park in Sarnia.

Along with presentation about their design project, each team faces questions from the judges from Sarnia-Lambton industries.

Professor Ajay Ray, chairperson of the university program, said that before the event came to Sarnia 11 years ago, the competition was held in London with professors picking the winners.

“A lot of the students say the questions they get from the judges are very different,” Ray said.

“They are the practical people who are working in industry, and we basically teach text book things.”

The other categories for this year's competition were oil and gas processes, and specialty chemical production.

“They look into very novel processes, new processes and they design them from investment to profit,” Ray said.

Along with the experience and knowledge gained, the competition is an opportunity for students to meet potential employers, Ray said.

“All the industries really take interest in the students, and the ideas they've come up with,” Albion said.

“There have been job offers to students in the past.”

More than 60 students participated this year.

The winning project in the oil and gas processes category was High Severity Fluidized Catalytic Cracking. The project Production of Nylon-6 won the specialty chemical production competition.

Palmer said work to prepare for Thursday's competition extended over the school year.

“A lot of work went into this project, a lot of late nights,” Palmer said.

He added that he and two of his fellow team members had internships in Sarnia, while they were in school.

“I think that industrial experience we gain down here really benefited us,” he said.

As for the prize money, the team members said that as graduating university students, it's already spoken for.

“We've got lots of loans,” Palmer said.

- Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer