Oregon State University: Oregon State University places 2nd in DOE Marine Energy Collegiate Competition

A group of Oregon State University students placed second out of 17 teams representing five countries in the Department of Energy’s 2022 Marine Energy Collegiate Competition.

The purpose of the competition is to produce new ideas for capturing the power of the ocean in pursuit of global climate goals, according to the DOE.

The third annual edition of the contest required each interdisciplinary team of graduate and undergraduate students to develop a wave energy converter and create a business plan supported by market research.

Representing OSU in the contest were a total of 22 students from the colleges of Engineering, Business and Liberal Arts.

“It was exciting for us to work together to design, build and test a working converter from the ground up, and design a business model to produce, implement and sell it,” said team member Thomas Close, a spring 2022 graduate in bioengineering. “The competition guidelines and restrictions were super hands off, so we were able to design a unique device from a really high level, and we used a number of OSU resources and testing facilities ranging from the Wallace Energy Systems & Renewables Facility to the Hinsdale wave lab.”

Oregon State’s team developed a desalination system, powered by wave and solar energy, for providing drinking water in post-disaster scenarios in remote locations. Each team in the competition was required to submit a poster and a written report detailing its work.

The Oregon State team’s project included community outreach in the form of marine energy lessons for seventh- and eighth-graders in Wilsonville, Oregon. OSU students delivered a presentation on renewable energy and opportunities for wave energy, and the middle school students were given materials to build their own small wave energy converters.

“I enjoyed leading the educational outreach activity this year with Wood Middle School,” said Andres Gonzalez, a mechanical engineering major who plans to graduate in the fall. “I also led the desalination group. My favorite part was getting to work with a team of civil engineers since I usually have group projects with mechanical engineers. Each one of them had to end up learning mechanical engineering concepts: microcontrollers, system integration and fluid mechanics.”

The Department of Energy competition culminated in a virtual week-long event in which the teams pitched their designs and market assessments and networked with the marine energy industry.

“I was amazed by how many fantastic undergraduate team members brought true expertise and skill to our team and device,” Close said. “With a team that size, a good process for project management was something we had to consistently evaluate and readdress as skill sets shifted and schedules became more strict.”

Close praised teammate Courtney Beringer, a doctoral student in civil engineering, for her project management skills, and faculty advisor Bryson Robertson noted the support and mentorship of his College of Engineering colleagues Joe Piacenza, Pedro Lomonaco and Ted Brekken and College of Business instructor Sanjai Tripathi.

“Our team’s second-place finish represents the collaboration, commitment and excellence of all the Oregon State students and faculty who took on this interdisciplinary challenge of working toward new green energy solutions,” said Robertson, associate professor of civil and construction engineering and the director of the Pacific Marine Energy Center.

In addition to the United States, the competition featured teams from Brazil, Pakistan, Qatar and Northern Ireland.

Webb Institute of Glen Cove, New York, placed first, and the University of New Hampshire rounded out the top three. Results were announced June 1.