A team of Environmental Engineering students created a water filtration system that would be able to make a given sample of water drinkable again. This team of engineers received first place in multiple categories. PC: Environmental Resources Engineering Department

A tournament to save the future

By | Bryan Donoghue

For a topic to be special, it needs to have special qualities. The Environmental Resource Engineering department is providing a competition-based classroom for students to work on self improvement. ENGR 480 is a special topic course that involves two topics for students to compete in, water filtration and creating sustainable renewable energy housing operations.


Peter Alstone and Elizabeth A. Eschenbach are professors in the Environmental Resource Engineering department that are advising for the Race to Zero competition and American Society of Civil Engineer’s MidPac competition.


This competition is pertinent to the times as Zero Energy Ready Buildings have started to be readily achievable and cost-effective, according the the United States Department of Energy who sponsors the competition. These buildings are incredibly energy-efficient as their renewable power can offset either most or all of the annual energy consumption.


“The idea behind the net zero thing is that, on net overall, you’re zero,” Alstone said. “Sometimes you’re pushing energy onto the grid. Sometimes you’re using electricity from the grid. But the overall net is that you have zero at your meter.”


Alstone operates as the advisor for the class and is excited for the competition as it gives students more creative freedom.


“It motivates students to turn themselves into self-learners,” Alstone said.


Instead of instructing, Alstone plans to be more hands off with his students, letting them come to him for advice but otherwise staying open to help the students with their ideas.


“There aren’t a whole lot of rules of how they should be doing it,” Alstone said. “I try to be hands off more than I’d normally do.”


In the other special topics class where students prepare to compete in the MidPac competition, Eschenbach finds that Humboldt State’s students consistently perform well and place in the top three for their innovated water filtration ideas.


“If you were to look for the news last year, you’d see that we’d came in first for the water treatment, and we came in second overall,” Eschenbach said.


These competition based classrooms are actually based off of a Wildlife competition class known as the Wildlife Conclave. The classes like these are designed to direct students for how they would work in the real world.


“Just as with the Wildlife Conclave and the Forestry Conclave, these are opportunities for our students to actually practice, to have hands on opportunities to apply what they’ve learned in their classrooms in a setting where they can see how they stand up to other students at a similar place in their education from other institutions,” Eschenbach said. “It’s a great learning opportunity and it’s one that we can’t provide in a more tradition setting.”


These two classes are open to anyone who wishes to join, no matter what their major may be, but applications have already been sent in. For more information on these two competitions, contact Dr. Eschenbach and Dr. Alstone in the Environmental Resource Engineering department.

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